Word of Rick Perry’s criticism of Mitt Romney on the Laura Ingraham radio show has been making the rounds, but I think it’s less than people are making it out to be–though I think that makes it more interesting, not less.

Here’s how Talking Points Memo described the exchange:

Baited by Ingraham to discuss the main albatross around Romney’s neck, his Massachusetts healthcare plan that formed the basis for “Obamacare,” Perry simply said, “I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts healthcare is a problem for him,” before pivoting off to a broader attack on Obama’s plan.

It actually sounds to me like Perry was trying to avoid taking direct shots at Romney if he didn’t have to. If that’s the case, then Perry is acting like the frontrunner; this was Romney’s strategy the entire time he led in the polls. Frontrunners focus their jabs at the president, not those running behind them in the primary. But what’s interesting is Romney has also passed on swinging at Perry, even after Gallup showed Perry with a lead for the first time.

So they’re both acting like frontrunners. Some might say they both are, since Perry’s lead is new, and we’re still months away from the first vote. But it will be entertaining to watch the two most plausible general election candidates pretend their rival doesn’t exist.

That, naturally, would be temporary. And it’s not even clear this is either candidate’s official strategy. But if Perry really wanted to hit Romney on healthcare, he wouldn’t have bunted; he’d have swung for the fences.

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