Attempting to steal some thunder from their adversaries, Democratic leaders are trying to link the Republican presidential candidates with extremism in advance of the GOP debate and straw poll in Ames, Iowa this week.
To that end, the Democratic National Committee has announced a new campaign to define the 2012 Republican candidates as too closely tied to the conservative Tea Party. The DNC is sponsoring a web video making that case, and DNC Press Secretary Melanie Roussell told reporters in an e-mail yesterday, "When it comes to the GOP presidential candidates and what America will hear from them in Ames this week, they have extreme aims to please the far-right, Tea Party wing of their party and they are following the extreme agenda of congressional Republicans instead of leading. All this while our country's future hangs in the balance." As examples, she mentioned cutting Medicare and giving tax breaks to the rich. [See a collection of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]
On Sunday, David Axelrod, a senior political adviser to President Obama, told CBS that "very strident voices in the Tea Party" pushed the government to the brink of default by refusing to compromise. And former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told CBS that Tea Party members have been "smoking some of that tea, not just drinking it." Dean added of congressional members of the Tea Party: "They are totally unreasonable and doctrinaire."
A full complement of Democratic leaders, including party chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, plans to be in Ames later this week, just before the debate on Saturday. Obama is expected to be the main target of the GOP candidates, and the Democrats will give the president's side of the story to the political press corps.