It's hard to imagine that Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum were hoping to be days away from the Iowa caucuses and spending most of their time attacking Ron Paul, who just so happens to be crushing them all. But here they are, and boy howdy are they spitting hot fire at this crabby old doctor-paleolibertarian! Here are some highlights.

  • Rick Perry reminds caucus-goers that they don't have to support a candidate who will maybe nuke them? "You don't have to vote for a candidate who will allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the face of the earth because America will be next... I'm here to say: you have a choice."
  • Michele Bachmann just flat-out says that Ron Paul "will not defend United States of America in the event of a nuclear attack."
  • Rick Santorum suggests that caucus-goers have been looking at Ron Paul through beer goggles so far, and that he ain't gonna look so purty in the morning: "I think the more Iowans look at Ron Paul the less attractive he will become... No president can cut one trillion dollars. The Congress has to pass that. You show me any indication Ron Paul's been able to pass anything through Congress in 20 years."
  • Newt Gingrich also believes that Ron Paul will look ugly on some not-too-distant morning: "Well, first of all, as people get to know more about Ron Paul, who disowns 10 years of his own newsletter, says he didn't really realize what was in it, had no idea what he was making money on, had no idea that it was racist, anti-Semitic, called for the destruction of Israel, talked about a race war, all this is a sudden shock to Ron Paul? There will come a morning people won't take him as a serious person."
  • Santorum helpfully pointed out that Ron Paul is TEN MILLION YEARS OLD. "He's going to be 78 years old. How many 78-year-olds change their opinion?" Yeah, just die already.
  • We'll give Gingrich the final, most devastating comment:
  • "I think Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American," Gingrich said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

  • Gingrich continued: "He's got to come up with some very straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously. Would I be willing to listen to him? Sure. I think the choice of Ron Paul or Barack Obama would be a very bad choice for America."

  • When asked if he would be able to vote for Paul if his rival won the 2012 GOP nomination, Gingrich said unequivocally "No."

And then somewhere there's Mitt Romney, who wouldn't really care if Paul won Iowa and may win it himself anyway, laughing at all of this and killing time and making awkward jokes about how he sleeps in LEED-certified hotels.

[Image via AP]