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The White House and Congressional Democrats have begun stepping up attacks on extremist tea party views that they say are infecting the Republican Party, but they are wary of going too far and alienating the most enthusiastic group of voters this cycle.
The Democrats strategy is nuanced: Rather than invest in expensive television ads, party leaders have been weaving the connection into their talking points. The move comes after two tea party candidates won Senate Republican nominations in this months primaries Christine ODonnell of Delaware and Joe Miller of Alaska. Both candidates beat more mainstream Republicans who were expected to win handily.
But Democrats say they dont have to do much to convince the public that there is a link between the GOP and the tea party. Candidates with the movements backing are running as conservative, independent-minded Republicans.
To be honest, I dont think we have to try too hard to link them because they are linked. In peoples minds, they understand that the tea party is really a core component of the Republican Party, Sen. Mary Landrieu said.
The Louisiana Democrat pointed to a real battle being waged right now in the Republican ranks over whether to embrace conservative but pragmatic views or to take a more extremist tack. She called it amusing to see Republicans struggling for a clear identity in recent weeks because its normally the Democrats that are disorganized.
Sen. Mark Begich agreed that the GOP is already linked to the tea party in the publics eye.
I just know that in Alaska we have a tea party guy whos the Republican nominee. So, it is what it is, the Democrat said.
Senior Democratic aides emphasized that their strategy for dealing with the tea party must be subtle, and they have denied a New York Times piece over the weekend that suggested the White House was mulling a national ad campaign that would frame the Republican Party as taken over by its radical tea party fringe. Still, Democrats arent denying that they are trying to make people aware of the link.
It is a real and obvious connection that we think will turn independent voters away from the GOP, one senior House Democratic aide said.
Vice President Joseph Biden said the alternative to Democratic control of Congress is the Republican tea party during a Monday fundraiser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D). And on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) noted that the public is becoming more and more aware of the radical policies being proposed by some Republican nominees during a sit-down with reporters.