The Iowa caucuses are more than a year away and no Republican has yet officially declared for the White House, but that’s not stopping Democratic opposition research group American Bridge from trying to sling a little mud.
The group released a nearly 200-page 2016 “scouting report” Monday morning with biographical sketches and dirt on 20 members of the potential 2016 Republican presidential field. From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal writing about participating in an exorcism to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s close ties to an ethics-plagued former member of Congress, the document is a largely a summary of news clippings, public records, and a handful of mugshots.
American Bridge made a name for itself in 2012 when it brought Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock to the center of the national political conversation, and helping to re-elect President Barack Obama by accusing Republicans of waging a “war on women.” But this book is a far cry from that.
The document is far from a shot to the knees for the GOP field, consisting almost entirely of well-covered news and mini-scandals. Some of the storylines, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” or Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ongoing criminal case for abuse of power are ongoing and will pose a challenge to the Republicans, but they are well known.
But that’s besides the point for American Bridge. Why would it release its best finds before these potential candidates make things official? In fact, some of the best opposition research on Republicans will likely come first from GOP primary opponents. American Bridge is laying the groundwork to influence the GOP primary by at times hitting Republicans for not being conservative enough for the party’s base. (John Kasich’s 1990s health care plan, for instance.) Whatever juicy dirt the group has, it will look to save for when it will have maximum impact: the general election, when voters are far more interested in the campaign.
Indeed, the reasons for releasing the document now is less about taking down Republican candidates, as it is about fundraising for the group and its small army of trackers across the country. American Bridge is hardly alone in the opposition field. America Rising, a research firm founded in 2013 by former RNC operatives, played a pivotal role in multiple 2014 races, and has already released an e-book attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
At least one Republican, though, didn’t attract too much attention from American Bridge this cycle. It’s entry for Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee who has faced calls from some in the GOP to mount a third bid for the White House, is just a photo and the text “MITT ROMNEY 2016?”