WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is "The Joker." Nancy Pelosi is portrayed as Cruella De Vil, and Harry Reid as Scooby Doo — all part of a Republican Party pitch to top fundraisers.
Tucked into the 72-page Power Point presentation to GOP fundraisers in Boca Raton, Fla., last month, was a direct call to exploit "extreme negative feelings" toward Democrats using tactics that even Republican leaders said were out of line.
"What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate...?" one slide asks.
"Save the country from tending toward Socialism!" it replies.
Political groups and parties often use highly charged language to motivate their base of voters and contributors. But the RNC document is unusual in revealing a strategy in such candid detail.
Republicans tried Thursday to disassociate themselves from the imagery and language of the presentation, which was first reported by the Politico news Web site.
Sen. John Thune, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, said: "There is no place for this. Obviously when you're fundraising you want to make points and you want to make direct and succinct points, but using these sorts of tactics is certainly not something that any of us ought to condone."
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called the images inappropriate and blamed a party staffer who made a "decision to say, 'Hey, we'll have some fun with this, and people will laugh and joke about it.'"
"Clearly it's not something that I would tolerate and certainly would not want presented to me, and we're dealing with it administratively," said Steele, who said he learned of the document Wednesday,
"Yes, you want to get out there and state things that rile people up and get them excited and create images that will do that," Steele said, "but this is the line that we won't tolerate nor cross in the RNC."
Still, the Democratic National Committee pounced on the document as "Republican fear mongering."
The Republican Party used "the most despicable kind of imagery, tactics and rhetoric imaginable," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.
The presentation encourages fundraisers to use a direct marketing pitch that exploits "extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration." It also describes ways to appeal to major donors, including "peer to peer pressure," "access" and "ego driven."
Republican strategist John Feehery said the document raises an essential fact about fundraising: If you can't scare donors, they won't give money.
"This is inartfully done," Feehery said. But he said Democrats once tried to scare their donors about President George W. Bush's "fascism" and about Sarah Palin's supposed "stupidity and her religious zealotry."
"The ugly truth of fundraising is you try to caricature the opposition — you don't get any money if you call your opponent a good guy," Feehery said.