Update at 13:43 Eastern: Yahoo has changed its explanation of how it came to be on the call. In an earlier version, the reporter said access was gained “via a clerical error.” That’s now been shifted to ” Yahoo News was invited to attend because of a mistake by someone on the staff of the Republican National Committee.” It’s possible, then, that this should be taken with a pinch of salt, and that perhaps these words *were* indeed intended to be overheard.
With election season upon us, Republican strategists are urging party surrogates not to attack President Obama personally. Although that approach may be tempting given his low approval ratings they warn it could backfire because voters “feel sorry for him.”
On a conference call Tuesday run by Nicholas Thompson, Vice President of Tarrance Group — which Yahoo News “accessed via a clerical error” — Thompson warned that though Obama’s overall approval is low, his personal approval ratings are quite high. Voters “don’t think he’s an evil man who’s out to change the United States,” explained Thompson, and Republicans should “exercise some caution” when going after him personally.
Obama’s job approval rating has been in the low 40s recently, but it’s true that voters like him personally. According to CNN, in November voters’ personal approval of the president was nearly 70%.
Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher, also on the call, directed Republicans to attack Obama on flip-flopping — the issue Democrats are currently using to attack Mitt Romney. Rather than play defense, Fleisher suggested turning the attacks around: “When it comes to flip flopping, Barack Obama is the king of flip flopping.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.