White House Denies Planning Anti-Tea Party Ad Campaign

elephant political symbol, Tea Party, Teabags background

The White House is pushing back against a New York Times article today that says President Obama's advisers are considering a national television ad campaign to frame the midterm elections as a choice between Democrats or a Republican Party overrun by extreme Tea Party candidates.

The Times' story has elicited a range of reactions from political commentators, including conservatives who argue such a move could only backfire, as well as liberals arguing that the line of attack is a logical step for the Democratic Party.

A White House official told CBS News that the story is completely inaccurate and that no such discussions are taking place among the president's advisers. The fact remains, however, that the Democratic National Committee -- which would likely carry out such a strategy for the White House -- has already taken minor steps to set up a national narrative tying the GOP to the Tea Party.

"We need to get out the message that it's now really dangerous to re-empower the Republican Party," an unnamed Democratic strategist who has spoken with White House advisers told the New York Times.

The DNC has tested that message in some web videos released over the past few months. An approximately three-minute video entitled "GOP Tea Party: These People Could be in Charge," released in late August, highlights some of the controversial positions and past actions of GOP candidates like Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott. Another video called "One and the Same," released in July, argues that the GOP is adopting the Tea Party platform, which the DNC says includes repealing Wall Street reform and protecting those responsible for the BP oil spill.

In late August, Organizing for America -- the White House's political arm of the DNC -- sent out an e-mail to its supporters, asking them to go door-to-door to rally voters as a rebuttal to Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally.

"We need to elect Democrats who will stand with the President and fight for change that matters, not Republicans and extreme Tea Party leaders who want to repeal all our hard work," the e-mail read.

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The New York Times reported today that the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees are resistant to the idea of a nationalizing the midterm elections at a time when voters are still angry over high unemployment.

Conservatives today similarly argued that demonizing the Tea Party would be ineffective in the current economy. Mary Katherine Ham at the Weekly Standard, referencing a one-liner from the National Republican Congressional Committee, asks, "What's scarier: a 9.6 percent unemployment rate and $13 trillion debt? Or the Tea Party?"

Colin Hanna, president of the grassroots group Let Freedom Ring, said Democrats mock the Tea Party at their own peril.

"The fact is that the Tea Party is a genuine phenomenon that has brought new energy and new voters to this year's political contests," he said. "If the Democrats want to demonize it, they will only succeed in assuring that Tea Party supporters solidify themselves in permanent opposition to the Democratic party."

On the other side of the debate, Steve Benen of Washington Monthly argues that the midterms are already about national issues -- namely, the economy. "So why not play the strongest hand?" he asks.

Meanwhile, the Times reported, the DNC is already preparing to use the extreme positions of this year's congressional candidates against potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates. The committee is creating a database linking statements from Tea Party-backed candidates to their supporters, such as Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.