Just as the 2012 Republican primary was getting underway, the Obama campaign perfected what political commentators called the death hug. That meant heaping all kinds of praise on candidates like Romney for his moderate positions. The thinking was that this would drive a wedge between the candidate and their base - who hate anything associated with President Obama.
We all know that political consultant James Carville is pushing hard for Hillary Clinton's 2016 candidacy. And so he tried his hand at a death hug recently when he praised Senator Ted Cruz as "the most talented and fearless Republican politician" in 30 years. But he totally blew it!
Everyone knows that if Cruz enters the 2016 presidential primaries he'll be the most extremist candidate in the race. What Carville just did was give that candidacy the imprimatur of credibility. Not a good move.
I've been saying all along that I'll be watching the Clinton crowd to see if they've learned anything from President Obama. This indicates that they haven't. Carville is the epitome of hardball politics. Perhaps you can make a case that that was necessary when the Republicans were pretty regularly coalescing around moderate candidates like Bush the 1st and Bob Dole.
But that's the Republican Party of yesterday. What Democrats need to do today is to continue to drive a wedge between the lunatics and the more moderate wing of the party. That's what a death hug is meant to do. It means playing smart as much as it does being tough. Folks like James Carville haven't learned that lesson yet.