Tug of Dole

Bob Dole weighed in on John McCain's behalf, leading to a nasty exchange between McCain and Mitt Romney over the former senator.

Published February 5, 2008 4:07PM (EST)

As we mentioned Monday, former Sen. Bob Dole, the Republicans' presidential nominee in 1996, jumped into this year's fray over the weekend. Dole penned a letter to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who has been slamming Dole's friend, current Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain.

Well, Mitt Romney, the beneficiary of Limbaugh's attacks on McCain, couldn't let that go by unchallenged. Appearing on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" Tuesday morning, Romney said about Dole, "Well, he's probably the last person I would have wanted to write a letter for me. I think there are a lot of folks that tend to think that maybe John McCain's race is a bit like Bob Dole's race. It's the guy who's the next in line, the inevitable choice. We'll give it to him and then it won't work."

The McCain campaign swung quickly into action after those comments, e-mailing reporters with the first sentence of that quote, as well as a link to a video of Romney's remarks that the McCain camp posted to YouTube. It also included a statement from McCain, who said, "Governor Romney's attack on Bob Dole is disgraceful, and Governor Romney should apologize. Bob Dole is a war hero who has spent his life in service to this nation and nobody has worked harder to build the Republican Party ...

"Governor Romney denounced Ronald Reagan in the mid '90s while Bob Dole was working tirelessly to elect Republicans across the country. Governor Romney was missing from those fights when I was standing with President Reagan and Senator Dole to build the Republican Party.

"Governor Romney is trying to divide the Republican Party and his disparagement of one of our Party's greatest leaders is a sad commentary on Governor Romney's increasingly bitter campaign."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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John Mccain R-ariz. Mitt Romney