For the better part of a year, Republicans have hysterically pushed the line that Democrats are desperate to "defund the police." Even when the line of attack is incoherent, GOP leaders have used it in the hopes of scaring voters -- and many Democratic officials have come to believe the smear has been effective.
Which makes it all the more notable to see Dems start to turn the tables on their opponents.
At the heart of the strategy is the Democrats' American Rescue Plan: the ambitious COVID relief package President Biden signed into law in the spring. Among the legislation's many elements was funding for state and local governments, included to prevent public-sector layoffs in schools, fire departments, and police departments.
It's against this backdrop that NBC News reported this morning:
House Republicans who opposed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill continue to see the benefits in their communities, and Democrats want to remind voters they are getting federal aid despite — and not because of — their elected officials.... As part of that effort, Democrats are highlighting communities in at least 10 districts represented by House Republicans considering or utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan — specifically its $350 billion pot of money to help cash-strapped state and local governments — to bolster police departments. Without the money, Democrats argue, those departments would suffer.
In a written statement, Robyn Patterson, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) deputy communications director, argued, "House Republicans voted against the funding their communities needed to keep police officers on the beat. If Republicans are looking for politicians who have voted to defund police departments, they only need to look in the mirror."
It also seemed notable when White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain promoted Robyn Patterson's tweet about the NBC News piece this morning, suggesting Team Biden sees this an area in which Republicans are vulnerable.
Others have also highlighted the same dynamic. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted in his latest column, Democrats, at least at the federal level, have been the ones funding the police."
Similarly, over the weekend, Fox News' Chris Wallace pressed Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) on his party's priorities. "Congressman Banks, you voted against that package, against the $350 billion, just like every other Republican in the House and Senate, so can't you make the argument that it's you and the Republicans who are defunding the police?" Wallace asked.
Naturally, the Indiana lawmaker rejected the premise, but the question itself help reinforce the potential problem for the GOP.
Indeed, NBC News' report added that Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) advocated in support of federal funding for state and local governments in a COVID relief bill precisely because he didn't "want to be the guy defunding the police."
In other words, as the GOP senator saw it, those who opposed federal relief aid necessarily left themselves open to these criticisms.
With this in mind, the Democratic focus is on specific GOP incumbents, including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who represents a district where local police officers were reinstated precisely because of federal funds she voted against.
Dems are also targeting Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
The GOP probably won't care for any of this, but it's an offensive rooted in fact.