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G.O.P. Now Sees Obama as Liability for Ticket

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G.O.P. Now Sees Obama as Liability for Ticket

We in NC are bombarded with NCGOP ads showing Obama with Bev Perdue (running for Govenor)with Rev. Wright speeches running side by side.

Well, little wonder. Reps have found their opening to attack democrats in the down ticket i.e. those running for Govenorships, house and senate.

Republicans say the new focus on Mr. Obama reflects their view that he remains the more likely Democratic presidential nominee since he continues to lead Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in convention delegates. It also shows that Republicans, who have for months characterized Mrs. Clinton as the contender who would most energize Republican voters, now see vulnerabilities in Mr. Obama that could be liabilities for other Democrats on the ballot.

“There were times when Republicans reacted with just horror that he would lead the ticket,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst. “Now there is not the sense of him being invulnerable, the magic bullet. I think there has been a major change.”

WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama is starring in a growing number of campaign commercials, but the latest batch is being underwritten by Republicans.

In a sign that the racial, class and values issues simmering in the presidential campaign could spread into the larger political arena, Republican groups are turning recent bumps in Mr. Obama’s road — notably his comment that small-town Americans “cling” to guns and religion out of bitterness and a fiery speech by his former minister in which he condemned the United States — into attacks against Democrats down the ticket.

“The public, week by week, is becoming more familiar with his big-government, far-left vision for America,” said Ed Patru, a spokesman for Freedom’s Watch, an advocacy organization that is portraying Mr. Obama as ultraliberal in an advertisement running in Louisiana before a special election for a House seat.

Republicans say the new focus on Mr. Obama reflects their view that he remains the more likely Democratic presidential nominee since he continues to lead Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in convention delegates. It also shows that Republicans, who have for months characterized Mrs. Clinton as the contender who would most energize Republican voters, now see vulnerabilities in Mr. Obama that could be liabilities for other Democrats on the ballot.

“There were times when Republicans reacted with just horror that he would lead the ticket,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst. “Now there is not the sense of him being invulnerable, the magic bullet. I think there has been a major change.”

The growing Republican emphasis on Mr. Obama could also help Mrs. Clinton plead her case that she is more electable, bolstering her argument to superdelegates that Republicans are poised to pounce on her relatively untested opponent. Her advisers have been frustrated that some top Democrats rate Mrs. Clinton a greater liability for the party’s candidates in conservative parts of the country — a view still held by some strategists — even though she has shown a capacity to withstand Republican attacks.

At the same time, some Democrats privately said the new Republican push could be a backdoor effort to buoy Mrs. Clinton, the candidate Republicans initially saw as the Democrat who would most rally Republicans and spur fund-raising. It has not been lost on Republican strategists that they can give pause to superdelegates leaning toward endorsing Mr. Obama.

The Republican House and Senate campaign organizations have seized on the remark on bitter voters in particular, encouraging their candidates to make the most of it. Advertisements have been placed on the Internet, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee assembled videos for targeted states that replay Mr. Obama’s comments as somber music builds. “Mary Landrieu. A Democratic superdelegate,” says the video, referring to the Louisiana senator, who is seeking re-election this year. “Will she cast her vote for Obama?”

Democrats say Republicans are going to vilify either Democratic contender and distort his or her record in an effort to weaken the nominee and drag down fellow Democrats.

“We know they will use Karl Rove/Lee Atwater tactics no matter who the nominee is,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Republicans have lost their credibility on the issues they want to scare people on, like national security, so they will try a different strategy.”

Mr. Obama was considered a crucial asset in a House election in Illinois earlier this year when his endorsement helped a Democrat, Bill Foster, gain the seat vacated by former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a Republican. And for months Republicans have looked with dismay on Mr. Obama’s ability to draw new voters and on the force of his call for change.

But they say the drawn-out campaign has altered Mr. Obama’s image. In recent days, Republicans have sought to make him a lightning rod in the hotly contested special House race in Louisiana and in a statewide race in North Carolina, whose presidential primary is May 6.

A state party advertisement in North Carolina has come under fire even from leading Republicans. It shows a grainy clip of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Mr. Obama’s former pastor, cursing the United States, and it notes the endorsement of Mr. Obama by two Democratic candidates for North Carolina governor. “He’s just too extreme for North Carolina,” the commercial concludes of Mr. Obama.

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, demanded that the advertisement be pulled, and others characterized it as reminiscent of the racially tinged spots of past North Carolina campaigns. But Mr. McCain has no authority to force such commercials off the air, a situation that could provide him with the advantage of taking a stand against a polarizing campaign spot while possibly benefiting from the advertisement.

In Louisiana, Freedom’s Watch’s six-figure ad purchase seeks to tie the Democratic contender, Don Cazayoux, to Mr. Obama’s “big-government scheme” for health care. Another commercial in that race, by the National Republican Congressional Committee, claims that Mr. Cazayoux shares Mr. Obama’s “radical health care agenda.” The House campaign group has also been pressing Democratic contenders to disavow Mr. Obama’s remark on rural Americans.

“He is being defined more and more as a conventional liberal politician,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The emerging advertising effort against Mr. Obama raises the possibility that, if he is elected, similar commercials could be broadcast in conservative districts around the country this fall, as Republicans try to undermine Democrats who have endorsed him. “Conventional wisdom has been that we want to run against Hillary,” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who said Mr. Obama had provided evidence to the contrary. “I don’t think he has connected with the average Joe. I do think he feels like people are bitter.”

But Representative Zack Space, a freshman Democrat seeking re-election in a predominantly Republican district in Ohio, said he did not think such tactics would work.

“The people of my district are smart enough to figure out that kind of thing,” Mr. Space said. “We have two qualified people, and I am going to support the nominee. And regardless of who they vote for for president, the people of my district are going to vote for the right person for Congress.”

Still, the prolonged Democratic nominating fight is complicating the campaigns of some of the party’s Congressional candidates. Representative Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, who spoke favorably last month of Mr. Obama and appeared with him at an event in his district, announced he would remain neutral in the race until the primaries ended June 3. Republicans criticized him for what they said was his ducking the issue.

Republicans are not alone in trying to link a presidential contender unfavorably with Congressional candidates. House Democrats have begun a concerted effort to tie dozens of Republicans to Mr. McCain and, just as important in their view, to President Bush.

In a recent blitz, the House Democratic campaign arm called on about 40 Republicans to disavow Mr. McCain’s comment that there had been “great progress economically” during the Bush administration. Democrats say their goal is not only to put the focus on House contenders, but also to rough up Mr. McCain so he does not enjoy a free ride while the Democrats sort out their presidential picture.

“Our presidential candidates are spending so much time firing at each other that we haven’t focused enough on the big differences between the Democrats and John McCain,” said Mr. Van Hollen, the House Democratic strategist. “We are going to make it very clear to voters that John McCain is George Bush all over again.”

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