Because it’s the only trick they’ve got:

Republicans worried about being

labeled bigots

It never struck me as especially complicated. Once there was a clear Democratic presidential nominee, the Republican National Committee would label him or her weak on terror, liberal (on everything), and desperate to raise your taxes. Throw in some references to 9/11, a few pictures of menacing-looking Middle Easterners, and a dash of immigrant bashing, and voila!

But it appears the RNC is hesitating, not because they’re unsure how to attack, but rather, because they want to avoid being labeled bigots.

Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election, as they prepare for a presidential campaign against the first ever African-American or female Democratic nominee.

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s.

The politico makes it sound like the Republicans are trying to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, that they just want to know what the rules are this time around. Apparently, I’m not the only one having a problem buying that. Steve Benen (that man seems to be everywhere!) continues:

It’s a really interesting report, and I don’t mean to dismiss it, but I’m having a difficult time believing this story.

Let me put it this way: I’m supposed to believe that the Republican National Committee, which has never shown so much as a hint of concern about propriety in modern political times, is not only worried about crossing lines of respect when it comes to diversity, it’s also leaking word to the Politico about being only worried about crossing lines of respect when it comes to diversity? The RNC?

It seems a little far-fetched.

Look, RNC officials know the difference between a clean attack and a dirty one. They recognize when an attack is driven by race-based politics, and when one is substantive and above-board. The only reason they would need a focus group to help them out on this is if they planned to walk right up to the decency line, and wanted to know how far they could go without crossing it.

Just how much Willie Horton is too much?

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