Democrats focus attacks on Perry, Romney and the tea party

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Democratic flacks, spinners and talking-heads are doing their best to scratch up the public images of Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, and of the tea party, while largely ignoring other candidates for the GOP nomination.

“What the American people saw tonight was all of the Republican candidates reaffirming their allegiance to the extreme ideology of the Tea Party,” Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, declared at 10:42 p.m.

“If you’re a middle class family looking for opportunity the GOP field once again offered no solutions tonight,” Wasserman Schultz said. “On issue after issue, Tea Party beliefs are taking hold of the Republican Party as they continually put the well-being of corporations, big oil, and special interests ahead of middle class Americans,” said her statement, which mentioned only Romney and Perry.

The same themes were pushed just prior to the debate.

A “Fact Check” distributed Sept. 6 by the Democratic National Committee, for example, declared that “Mitt Romney [is] ‘on the same page’ with the Tea Party agenda that would essentially end Medicare all together for future beneficiaries.”

And a DNC email, sent out an hour into the GOP debate at Ronald Reagan’s Californian ranch, declared that while “Perry might like to talk about the ‘Texas miracle,’ the reality is it’s just another Texas Tall Tale.”

Democrats have repeatedly said they would like to tarnish the public reputation of Romney and Perry long before either gets to face President Obama next year, and tying them to the tea party movement appears to be one strategy.

White House spokesman Jay Carney declared at a Wednesday press conference that the public is “enormously frustrated when Washington doesn’t just do nothing, but actually causes harm to the economy, which is exactly what happened this summer when a slice of the Congress held Washington hostage in pursuit of an ideological victory.”

Democratic flacks have labeled the long-term budget plan prepared by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House budget committee, as the “tea party economic plan.” (RELATED: Gingrich in debate: I’d fire Bernanke tomorrow)

And shortly before the California debate, the DNC released another email targeting the tea party movement.

“9.5 million. That’s the number of American jobs we would lose from the balanced budget amendment provision of the Tea Party economic plan if it were fully phased in by 2012,” the Democrats’ email declared. “In addition to costing 9.5 million jobs nationwide, the amendment would force deep cuts to the programs that matter most to middle-class families: education, health care, Social Security, and Medicare … Millionaires and billionaires would be protected at the expense of the middle class.”

Democrats bolstered this anti-tea party pitch with additional media-targeted messages from Democratic Party organizations in several states.

Those emails declared that the “Tea Party economic plan” would kill 93,000 jobs in Kansas, 114,000 jobs in Connecticut, 217,000 jobs in New Jersey, 123,000 jobs in Minnesota, and 79,000 jobs in Iowa. The emails also provided Democratic Party contacts for state-level reporters.

State-level Democratic pitches also painted Romney and Perry as hostile to popular entitlement programs.

The “Tea Party budget plan … [would cost] 31,011 jobs here in Rhode Island,” declared Ed Pacheco, that state’s Democratic Party chairman.

“Possibly a second Great Depression and devastation for the middle class, small businesses, students and seniors. An economic quagmire that could last generations.  Ending Medicare and slashing Social Security. That’s the price Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and the rest of the Republican Party are willing to pay to appeal to the most extreme and narrow elements of the Tea Party,” said Pacheco’s statement.”

Meanwhile, GOP spokespersons tried to reverse the spin. “The Democrats claim their ‘analysis’ is valid because it is based on the ‘conservative Romer-Bernstein rule of thumb that equates 1 percent of GDP to 1 million jobs’ … [but that rule] led Obama and Democrats to make their infamous claim that Obama’s $825 billion stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent,” according to a statement from the Republican National Committee.

“We all know how that turned out,” the RNC statement said: “[T]he unemployment rate increased from 8.2 percent to 9.1 percent … [and we have] 31 months of unemployment above 8 percent.”