Updated @ 2:14 pm ET -- Strategic Perception Inc., the ad firm whose principal, Fred Davis, was mentioned in a story about a proposed superPAC anti-Obama attack-ad campaign that would use Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has now issued a statement:
"The document referred to in today's New York Times story was one proposal prepared and submitted by Strategic Perception, Inc. The Ricketts family never approved it, and nothing has happened on it since the presentation. The vendors listed were as proposed, and had nothing to do with this proposal."
Updated @ 1:14 pm ET — Politico reports that billionaire conservative Joe Ricketts is seeking to distance himself from a proposed superPAC attack-ad campaign against President Obama that would have featured the president's old Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney told TownHall.com, the conservative web site, that he "repudiate(s)" the superPAC proposal.
"I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they've described. I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity — particularly for those in the middle class of America. And I think what we've seen so far from the Obama campaign is a campaign of character assassination..."
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Much attention is being paid Thursday to a New York Times story that a superPAC funded by Joe Ricketts, the conservative and superwealthy founder of brokerage TD Ameritrade and patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, has proposed an ad campaign that would use — wait for it — Rev. Jeremiah Wright against President Obama.
Republican efforts to undermine Obama by deploying the controversial Wright failed to stop the Obama juggernaut in 2008. Meanwhile, much of the world seems to have moved on from the retired United Church of Christ cleric whose Chicago church Obama once belonged to. But apparently not everyone has.
NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro who has been covering both the Obama and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns talked with an official in the Obama re-election team to get some reaction, Ari writes:
"I just talked to an Obama campaign official on background. They don't think this particular line of attack can be effective four years into the presidency, but they're worried in general terms about a sneak attack funded by somebody's private fortune..."
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina has issued an official statement on behalf of the president's re-election effort:
"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. 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."
Ari adds that the Obama campaign doubts that the proposed attack against Obama could be effective. Why? Because voters have already made up their minds about Obama's character and, for the most part, approve of it.
The Obama campaign official told Ari that the president's personal character attributes have always been what's polled highest throughout the presidency. Obama is no longer the relatively unknown state senator who emerged quickly on the national scene.
According to the official, the American people know Obama which helps explain why when the question is who shares your values or who's fighting for you? Obama outpolls the other side by 20 to 30 points.
Ari said the official told him the campaign doesn't think the attack is going to work since voters, if nothing else, tend to see Obama as decent person. That's why Romney on the stump nearly always says Obama's a nice guy but in over his head. Romney knows that ultimately, voters like Obama.
The official went on to say that Romney was presented a leadership moment when he was asked Thursday morning whether Wright was fair game and replied he replied "I haven't read the papers." That was different than Sen. John McCain 2008 approach when, as the GOP presidential nominee, he said Wright was off limits. Romney failed, at least initially, to take a stand against the superPAC proposal, the official said, likening it to to the Sandra Fluke incident, the Georgetown University law student who was insulted by Rush Limbaugh during the debate, earlier this year, about mandated health insurance coverage of contraceptives.
Matt Rhoades, a Romney campaign spokesperson, responded to the Times story about the possible super PAC attack ad campaign using Rev. Wright by saying:
"We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so."
Ari reports that the Obama campaign official wasn't buying it.
The Obama official who didn't want to be identified based that reaction on the fact that Romney has already appeared to accuse Obama of trying to deChristianize the U.S.:
ARI: "The official pointed me to Romney's February 2012 appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show when Romney said:
" ROMNEY: 'I think again that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard, not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like America to be more secular. And I'm not sure which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation.' [Hannity Radio, 2/7/12])
ARI: "More broadly, the campaign is absolutely concerned about attacks that can come out of nowhere funded by one individual's private fortune without any oversight or coordination with a campaign."