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Posted at 03:34 PM ET, 01/20/2012

Labor jumps into GOP primary fray

It isn’t every day that major national unions get involved in GOP presidential primaries, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Florida right now — another sign of how the bipartisan attacks on Romney’s Bain years have scrambled the political calculus.

AFSCME is going up with a major ad buy in the state hammering Mitt Romney's record as a businessman — and giving it a local angle by linking Romney to Governor Rick Scott.

“What kind of a businessman is Mitt Romney?” the ad intones. “While Romney was a director of the Damon Corporation, the company was defrauding Medicare of millions.” AFSCME sent me the spot:

The basis for the ad is a 2002 Boston Globe article reporting that Romney and Bain made huge profits from the 1993 sale of a medical testing company that earned its revenues partly from a criminal scheme to defraud the Medicare system. Romney served on the board of Damon from 1990-1993 but was never implicated in any way, the Globe reported, adding that the evenual sale of Damon made Romney $473,000 and netted $7.4 million for Bain investors.

The ad uses this material to morph an image of Romney into that of the Florida Governor. “Corporate greed. Medicare fraud. Sound familiar?” the ad says, an allusion to a well known fact among Floridians — that their governor once ran the company at the center of the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history.

The ad is backed by an $800,000 buy — a number first reported by Chuck Todd — and will run through the duration of the primary.

The unusual involvement of a major labor union in a GOP primary is a sign that Obama’s outside allies view Romney as the all but certain GOP nominee — and the toughest Republican in a general election.

Larry Scanlon, AFSCME’s political director, says the union may invest in other GOP primaries down the line, too, depending on the response this ad gets. He acknowledged that the union views Romney as the toughest opponent Obama could face, but added there’s no reason for labor not to start spending big money to define him right away, to influence not just the primary but the general election, too. Florida, of course, is a major general election swing state.

“We want someone in office who will spur an economic recovery, and not put it back in the ditch, the way Bush did, and the way Romney would as president,” Scanlon said. “We’re educating voters about the real Mitt Romney.”

The ad represents just how scrambled the political calculus has become, now that Republicans have been attacking Romney’s business background in terms identical to those being employed by Democrats. A major union is now perfectly comfortable amplifying one of its own attack lines against Romney — in an effort to sway GOP primary voters, in addition to those who will vote in the general.

************************************

UPDATE: Obviously the ad links Romney to Scott because of the latter’s profound unpopularity: A recent Quinnipiac poll found the Governor’s approval rating at 38 percent in the state.

By  |  03:34 PM ET, 01/20/2012

 
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