Obama’s aides freak over possible Rev. Wright-themed attack ads

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Top Democratic strategists have reacted quickly to stop a proposed $10 million advertising campaign that would highlight the relationship between President Barack Obama and his old Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Plans for the potential ad campaign were revealed this morning by the New York Times.

“Stunning! Will Mitt stand up, as [Sen.] John McCain did? Or allow the purveyors of slime to operate on his behalf?” claimed a 5.42 a.m. tweet from David Axelrod, the senior strategic at Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago.

The proposed advertising is a “hateful campaign being planned by GOP super PACs,” claimed Bill Burton, who runs a Democratic “super PAC” political action committee, dubbed Priorities USA Action, that is itself designed to run negative ads against Gov. Mitt Romney.

The Wright-focused advertising campaign is being designed by campaign ad guru Fred Davis, and was commissioned by Joe Ricketts, who founded the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, according to the May 17 article in the New York Times.

“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, according to the Times.

Burton’s tweet came at 5.58 a.m. — some 16 minutes after the alert from Axelrod, who has worked in Chicago politics for decades.

At 9.05 a.m., Brad Woodhouse, the spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, joined the hue and cry. “Unbelievable @MittRomney can’t do more on this Ricketts slime story than say he hasn’t read the story,” he said in reaction to a Washington Post report that Romney declined to comment.

At 9.32 a.m., Woodhouse followed up with another tweet, saying “If @MittRomney can’t clearly denounce the type of scum bag tactics planned by his allies as outlined by the NYT he’s not fit to lead.”

In response to the Democrats’ aggressive complaints, GOP officials continued their scheduled criticism of Obama’s economic policies  and pushed back at Obama’s campaign without directly criticizing the planned Wright ad-campaign.

“Unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same,” Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said in a statement.

“President Obama’s team said they would ‘kill Romney,’ and, just last week, David Axelrod referred to individuals opposing the president as ‘contract killers’ … Obama’s team is running a campaign of character assassination.  We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so.”

The Democrats’ hostile reaction to the planned ad campaign follows recent media reports that top GOP fundraisers are being investigated and intimidated by Democratic cadres.

Businessman Frank VanderSloot recently told Fox News that “people have called my children. They’ve been surfing their LinkedIn sites. They’ve been asking interviews of my kids,” after he was highlighted on Obama’s campaign website as a Romney donor.

The information about the planned advertising campaign was leaked to the Times by “a person not connected to the proposal who was alarmed by its tone,” according to the paper.

The leak may torpedo the plan, because Ricketts is vulnerable to economic and social pressure, especially in Chicago. “The proposal was presented last week in Chicago to associates and family members of Mr. Ricketts, who is also the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs,” said the Times.

During the 2008 election, then-GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain shied away from character-based criticism of Obama despite his close ties to Wright, whose sermons damned America and blamed white people for many evils.

During his years in Chicago, Obama attended Wright’s church numerous times, donated heavily to the church, and cited Wright as his pastor until partway through the presidential campaign.

Established media outlets also ignored Obama’s ties to the preacher.

However, author Ed Klein’s new book “The Amateur” explores the relationship further, and alleges that Obama and his friends tried to persuade Wright to stay quiet during the 2008 race.

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