With Hillary Clinton already facing attacks from the right, a Democratic super PAC specializing in opposition research is expanding its mission to playing defense.
American Bridge, which made a name for itself in the 2012 election by knocking down Republican candidates from Mitt Romney to Todd Akin, is launching a web site to defend potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2016. The web site, CorrecttheRecord2016.org, will aim to debunk attacks against Democrats while flogging gaffes and flip-flops by possible Republican contenders.
Fueled by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates to super PACS, the oppo wars are evolving into an arms race. The American Bridge project comes less than three weeks after a new Republican super PAC, America Rising, started an anti-Clinton initiative called StopHillary2016.org. Another super PAC, American Crossroads, unleashed an online video in May criticizing Clinton’s response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four people.
These missives against Clinton were answered only by an unofficial collection of her supporters, since the former Secretary of State, U.S. senator and First Lady is not an elected official or a candidate. (She has not officially endorsed a super PAC, called Ready for Hillary, trying to build support for her presidential bid.) In the meantime, Democrats and Republicans are eager to use the pre-campaign period to try to define her on their own terms.
The mudslinging against Clinton – and other possible Democratic candidates like Vice President Joe Biden and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley -- is expected to intensify with each passing day as the 2016 election approaches. Last month, the New York Times reported that Republicans were testing the message that Clinton was too old to be president, eager to contrast their younger crop of prospective candidates against her.
“Correct the Record is a logical extension of the American Bridge brand to defend Democrats against right-wing dirt and phony scandal-mongering with the truth,” David Brock, chairman of American Bridge, said in a written statement.
Officials with American Bridge, which spent about $15 million in the 2012 cycle, declined to say how much additional money and staffers would be allocated to its new defensive strategy. As it did in 2012, American Bridge plans to target a number of potential Republican presidential candidates, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
James Carville, who helped run Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and has endorsed a Hillary Clinton bid in 2016, endorsed what he called American Bridge’s “sword and shield strategy that keeps the pressure on potential Republican nominees while defending our own.”