On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, the Republican National Committee is touting an expansive new video database that party operatives say is their most potent weapon for attacking President Obama in 2012.
The electronic catalogue, which RNC officials describe as “The Book,” is a searchable trove of “every utterance” from Obama – including hundreds of pages of quotes, video clips and data points documenting the entirety of the president’s first term.
It will provide fodder for an expected onslaught of video attacks in the months ahead, officials said.
“It’s a virtual Lexis-Nexis [database] for a Republican campaign going after a Democrat,” said RNC communications director Sean Spicer. “We have everything he has done and said catalogued six ways to Sunday.”
While presidential campaigns have long amassed opposition research and sought to use an opponent’s words against him, Spicer said the latest iteration is groundbreaking in its efficiency and specificity, thanks in part to the president himself.
“We’re in a unique place this cycle, unlike any other cycle, because Obama made very specific promises in very specific locations,” Spicer said. “A lot of times candidates speak in platitudes, and you can argue those facts back and forth all day long. But Obama has said very specific stuff on the campaign trail and in office.”
The RNC will debut a compilation of Obama clips from the newly polished video library in a TV ad to run across Iowa on Tuesday. The montage is expected to show “promises” Obama delivered in Iowa in 2008 contrasted with economic and other data on the reality now.
One example from the RNC’s trove: Obama’s 2009 comment that the Recovery Act would help bring 2 million Americans out of poverty. The file cites census data suggesting more than 6 million Americans joined the ranks of the poor since 2009, instead.
Another page from “The Book” features Obama’s promise to help between 7 and 9 million homeowners refinance their mortgages, coupled with recent reports suggesting fewer than 2 million homeowners were helped under the plan.
Republican strategists say juxtaposing Obama’s words with data on the economy, health care costs and other issues will be the most potent mechanism for winning over crucial independent voters who may like Obama personally but are skeptical about his policies.
“This is not an effective tool – it’s the most effective tool,” said Spicer. “We literally have gone through and looked at this over and over again. Survey after survey, focus group after focus group all say this is the most effective way to bring these folks over to our side.
“It is 100 percent the most effective tool we have,” he added.
Meanwhile, Democrats and the Obama campaign have spent months amassing a similar opposition research database focused largely on the public and private sector record of GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
They have launched relentless attacks on the Massachusetts governor using his own words in an effort to paint him as a man without a “core” and raise questions about his character – something Republicans have so far signaled they are loathe to do with Obama, given his personal popularity.
Team Obama has also been quietly preparing to mount a vigorous defense of the president’s record against the expected GOP line of attack.
“Four years ago, President Obama said on Iowa caucus night that he would make health care affordable and accessible for all Americans, put a middle class tax cut in the pockets of working Americans, start to free us from our dependence on foreign oil and end the war in Iraq – promises that have been fulfilled,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt in an email.
“He came into office when our economy was hemorrhaging more than 700,000 jobs a month and pulled it back from the brink, and we’ve now had 21 straight months of growth and almost 3 million private sector jobs created,” he said. “He is rebuilding an economy that’s meant to last, not a bubble economy based on paper profits that leaves the middle class behind.”
The RNC database was first reported by Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post, which was given an exclusive preview.