11:16 am May. 17, 2012
President Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, emailed a statement this morning reacting to the New York Times report that the conservative activist (and owner of DNAinfo) Joe Ricketts is considering an aggressive assault on the president, including clips of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright that John McCain reportedly declined to employ during the 2008 campaign.
“This morning's story revealed the appalling lengths to which Republican operatives and SuperPacs apparently are willing to go to tear down the President and elect Mitt Romney," Messina wrote in the statement. "The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself. It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics. Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”
On a flight with reporters this morning, Romney reportedly said he hadn't read the papers when asked whether Obama's association with Wright was fair game in the election.
The Obama campaign has been trying to brace for the onslaught of super PAC spending by casting their donors as a shadowy network of special interests. Last week, David Axelrod referred to the super PACs as "contract killers" on a conference call with reporters.
It's certainly not ideal, from the Obama campaign's perspective, to be engaging in direct combat with the super PACs, rather than with their actual opponent. But they clearly see stories like the one about Ricketts as an opportunity at least to poison the message, since their own allied super PACs can't spend enough to overwhelm it.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent has the Romney campaign's reaction. Romney repudiates the use of Wright in an ad campaign, but, as Sargent notes, he himself invoked Wright in discussing Obama not long ago.