WASHINGTON --- Unwilling or perhaps uneager to let go of last week's scuffle over Mitt Romney's controversial distortion of an old Barack Obama quote, the Democratic National Committee announced on Monday a major ad campaign attacking the former Massachusetts governor's character.
In a spot that will air on broadcast and cable television in six key battleground states, the committee plays to the typical anti-Romney script: that the candidate will contort himself in uncomfortable ways if it helps him become president.
The ad doesn't mention what Democrats see as the most recent bit of substantiating evidence: An ad that the Romney campaign released truncating an Obama quote of a 2008 John McCain strategist to make it appear as if Obama were saying that quote himself. But in an email announcing the new ad, the DNC's press secretary Melanie Roussell made a fairly obvious reference to the deliberate mis-quotation.
"As Mitt Romney continues to say or do anything to become President -- including deceive Americans -- the Democratic National Committee today is taking its effort to hold Romney accountable for his words to an all new level," Roussell wrote.
That "new level" involves airing the ad in Albuquerque, Raleigh-Durham, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. (which spills over into Virginia). It involves having surrogates amplify the message in conference calls and press events in Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Denver and Massachusetts. It also involves driving viewers to a larger, four-minute video featuring even more Romney inconsistencies (the DNC television ad actually serves as a trailer for the website version). And for good measure, it involves turning the politics of out-of-context quotations back on Romney (albeit to a less overtly deceitful degree).
In the ad, the DNC quotes the Massachusetts Republican as seemingly praising the President's health care law.
"We put together an exchange and the president's copying that idea," Romney says in the DNC ad. "I'm glad to hear that."
That Romney would praise health care exchanges is, inherently, not all that controversial. Exchanges play a significant role in the president's health care law but one with which conservatives have been generally comfortable. The problem is that the rest of the statement (which came from a brief interview Romney did with CBS on June 24, 2009) involved him leveling gripes with Obama's approach to reform, including specious warnings of government-run health care.
A request for comment from the Romney campaign was not immediately returned. Nor did the DNC address the use of that 2009 quote. In the press release announcing the ad, Roussell argued that: "Democrats don't need any dirty tricks to prove Mitt Romney has no core convictions and no new ideas for creating jobs. We need only to let him speak for himself."
Coming amidst polling data and newspaper endorsements showing Newt Gingrich as the latest GOP candidate on the rise, the DNC ad is also a helpful reminder that Democrats still see the Republican primary as, more or less, a done deal. Little time or attention has been spent on attacking the former House Speaker or any other nominee riding an anti-Romney boomlet. The decision to launch a multi-state ad campaign focused on just one candidate in particular is further evidence that -- in Obamaland at least -- the general election is upon us.
UPDATE: Andrea Saul, a Romney Spokesperson, emails over the following response:
President Obama has failed to create a single net new job and has wreaked more havoc on the middle class than any president in modern history. The last thing the White House wants is to have to run against Mitt Romney and be held accountable for the many failures of this Administration. So, instead of focusing on the economy and creating jobs, President Obama and Democrats are focused on tearing down Mitt Romney.