Democrats join the Anybody But Mitt club

    It’s a clever ad.

    The new Democratic National Committee spot attacking Mitt Romney features an announcer familiar from movie trailers hocking Mitt v Mitt, a feature in which the flip-flopping Romney is pitting against his former self on the issues of abortion and health care (watch it above).

    It’s not surprising to see the Democrats’ attack after Romney’s disgraceful misuse of President Obama’s words from the 2008 election.

    But I also had to wonder if the DNC isn’t jumping into the Republican primary battle here.

    Conventional wisdom is that the White House would rather see the GOP nominate a more extreme conservative than Romney for 2012. So are the Democrats jumping in to bloody up Mitt in the hope that Newt Gingrich or someone they see as less electable gets the nomination?

    Political junkies in Philadelphia will remember the 1999 Democratic mayoral primary, when out of nowhere, Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz paid serious money for TV ads attacking one of the Democratic candidates – former State Welfare Secretary John White.

    Katz had nothing against White at all. He viewed White as the prime competitor for black votes to John Street, a more racially-polarizing figure whom Katz saw as the Democratic candidate he had the best chance of beating.

    So he spent money on a race where he wasn’t even a candidate to try and influence the outcome.

    It worked, sort of. Katz’s ads helped diminish White’s support, and Street won the nomination. But Katz lost to Street anyway in a very close election.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this. If the Democrats mostly wanted to influence the Republican race, it wouldn’t make sense to put a lot of cash into Pennsylvania, which doesn’t hold it’s primary until April. The Republican race was wrapped up by that time in 2008.

    Could be the old maxim of political campaigns: define your opponent to voters before he has a chance to define himself.

    UPDATE: The DNC returned my call asking for a list of the states they’re running the Mitt v Mitt ad in, and they’re all late primary states: New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. So it seems this about whacking Mitt rather than helping Newt or anybody else. If the goal were to help his rivals, we’d see Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Florida on the list.

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