The Republican establishment is launching its new offensive against the insurgents in its own party and trying to drag Mitt Romney over the finish line. Party insiders are now saying publicly what they have been saying privately for months — the primaries are a disaster for the party’s image and its November prospects. Bill McInturff, who probably has more influence on Capitol Hill than any other Republican strategist, calls the primaries “corrosive” in today’s Wall Street Journal-NBC poll which assesses the damage.

So out trot Eric Cantor, Tom Coburn and John Ashcroft, all with AAA conservative ratings, to endorse Romney and end the madness. These endorsements have nothing to do with their true affinity for Romney. His conservative squishiness cannot really appeal to them.  Rather, their support is driven by the belief that the alternatives are a  disaster for the Republican party in November. 

We have seen this pattern before: the establishment tries to coalesce around Romney, only to have the race plunged back into chaos.  I said this morning that the race is designed to drag on, given the arcane rules of delegate selection. And I still believe that, despite this latest Romney offensive. What I wonder about is the net effect of these endorsements, who benefits more: Romney, for the validation, or Rick Santorum, for the fuel it adds to his insurgency? And so it goes: the Republican civil war continues.