***Team Romney Getting Ready To Nuke Santorum?

It’s just one unsigned and thinly sourced report from BuzzFeed, but we do have the first indication that Mitt Romney’s campaign has decided to bite the bullet and go after Rick Santorum with negative ads, brushing aside the warnings of conservative opinion-leaders and the risk of blowback:

Mitt Romney’s campaign — and its slashing Super PAC — are locking their sights on Rick Santorum for a campaign that may make previous attacks on Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich look like mere love taps.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, a Romney advisor offered details of the campaign’s coming two-front attack, which the campaign expects will be echoed by the Super PAC, which cannot legally coordinate its message, but which has already bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of airtime in key states.

“Santorum’s a blank slate, so everyone’s projecting on to him what they want because he’s the last anti-Romney,” said the advisor. “Santorum is going to get introduced to people that don’t know him.”

The Pennsylvania Republican will “be defined by two things,” the advisor said.

The first is a comparison to Barack Obama: “He’s never run anything,” said the advisor. The Pennyslvanian’s experience is limited to roles as a legislator and legislative staffer. “The biggest thing he ever ran is his Senate office,” he said.

The second is a challenge to Santorum’s Washington experience.

“They’re going to hit him very hard on earmarks, lobbying, voting to raise the federal debt limit five times,” said the advisor. “The story of Santorum is going to be told over the next few weeks in a big way.”

That’s certainly consistent with the message Romney surrogates were sending out in media calls yesterday: attacking Santorum from the right to undermine his conservative support while avoiding claims they were reinforcing potential Democratic attack lines.

As for blowback, the report concludes, Team Romney’s beyond worrying about that:

Romney, who allowed Restore our Future to do his negative work in Iowa, has long since given up any apparent worry that voters will react badly to negativity, and complains of unfair attacks don’t seem likely to deter him here.

“The expectation is that Santorum, just given his personality, is going to whine like crazy about this,” the advisor laughed.

I’m not sure how convincing this scenario is. The report talks of “hundreds of thousands of dollars of airtime in key states.” To get the job done, given the size and scope of the primaries just ahead, Romney’s forces need to be thinking more in terms of a greatly expanded version of the $15 million they spent in Florida alone to make sure every voter heard ten times about Newt Gingrich stuffing his craw with Freddie Mac money while Floridians watched their mortgages sink beneath the waves. But it sure looks like Mitt’s minions are at least asking themselves the right questions.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.