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 use fear of Democrats as a fundraising strategy.
"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 Republican National Committee document is unusual in revealing a strategy in such candid detail.
Republicans tried Thursday to distance 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."
In an e-mail to donors and party operatives, RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said the presentation "features some unfortunate language and images." Mr. Heye said RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele did not attend the presentation and had not seen the document.
"Fundraising documents are often controversial," Mr. Heye said. "Obviously, the chairman disagrees with the language and finds the use of such imagery to be unacceptable. It will not be used by the Republican National Committee in any capacity in the future."
Still, the Democratic National Committee pounced on the document as "Republican fear-mongering."
The Republican Party "seems hell-bent on damaging their battered brand even further by engaging in 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."
The document does illustrate an essential fact about fundraising, however. "If you can't scare the hell out of donors, you're not going to get any money," Republican strategist John Feehery said
"This is inartfully done," Mr. Feehery said. "But the fact of the matter is Democrats were trying to scare the hell out of their donors about George Bush's 'fascism,' they were trying to scare the hell [out of donors] about Sarah Palin and her 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," Mr. Feehery said.
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