Rep. Ron Barber's (D) re-election campaign in Arizona's 2nd district is one of the most competitive -- and expensive -- House races in the country. The congressman narrowly prevailed against Martha McSally (R) in 2012, and this year's rematch is neck and neck.
Dylan Matthews reported late last week that the Arizona Republican Party is so eager to help tip the scales that it sent out direct mail last week, condemning Barber for voting with ... House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
"What makes Ron Barber so scary?" the flier asks voters. "His vote for the terrifying Paul Ryan budget." The Arizona Republican Party's piece, which leans heavily on a Halloween theme, goes on to call Paul Ryan's plan a "bone-chilling" budget that "cut vital assistance programs."
Before we consider the politics, let's not brush past the relevant facts.
It's important to clarify that the mailer is not attacking Barber for supporting the House Republican budget, which Ryan designed and which is often referred to as the "Ryan budget." Barber voted against that budget in both 2013 and 2014. What the mailer is attacking Barber for is supporting a small-bore budget compromise worked out by Ryan and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA).
This compromise budget was far less extreme than the original Ryan blueprint, which Barber rejected. It did include some harsh cuts, but it was Republicans who demanded those cuts -- which didn't go as far as the right had hoped. Barber voted for the compromise, which avoided another government shutdown, but so did most House GOP lawmakers.
What we're left with is the Arizona Republican Party attacking a Democrat for being too conservative.
It's not just Barber and it's not just Arizona -- this keeps happening.
As we discussed last week, a wide variety of centrist Democrats are under attack -- from Karl Rove's operation, among others -- for not loving Social Security and Medicare enough.
At the same time, a variety of Republicans who oppose reproductive rights are pretending to be pro-choice, while just as many GOP candidates who oppose contraception access are pretending to love birth control.
For all the talk about Democrats running away from President Obama, there are a surprising number of examples of Republicans running away from their own policy agenda.
This may work -- you can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time -- but when the dust settles on the 2014 midterms, and the right claims a popular mandate for a hyper-conservative agenda, let's keep these details in mind. If this were really a "center-right nation," and this were really a year for a conservative resurgence, the latest Republican tactics simply wouldn't be necessary.