Robert Novak (h/t Wizbang! Jim Addison) reveals today that Mitt Romney's campaign released the phony story that Fred Thompson would withdraw and send his support to McCain. That may explain why it appeared Thompson and McCain singled out Romney for attacks in Saturday Night's debate on ABC.
Addision is a bit skeptical of Novak's conclusions, noting that Bob did not name a source. I suspected Huckabee's campaign as the source, but Romney is also a possibility. Challenging Addison's logic, Thompson is THE conservative candidate. Getting him out of the race eliminates a distraction and avoids McCain-Thompson teamwork like we saw last night.
On the other hand, Huckabee's support would likely move to Thompson. Evangelicals are not only social conservatives, but economic conservatives, too. Right now, they appear blinded by their religious identity with Huckabee to look at the complete package. That blindness also prevents them from seeing that Thompson and McCain share Huckabee's religious views, if to different degrees.
Bottom line: One of the campaigns invented a story to hurt Thompson, and the drive-bys did the underhanded bidding. And Thompson boldly called them on it today (Newsbusters).