There are obviously no depths to which the evil Republicans will not sink in the name of winning an election. Forget about vote rigging or massive advertising buys… now we’re apparently working to elect Bernie Sanders. (Yahoo News)

Some of the most powerful figures in the Republican Party are doing everything they can to help Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders…

During the debate, the Republican National Committee sent out four separate e-mails defending the Vermont senator against Hillary Clinton on issues ranging from single-payer healthcare to guns to Wall Street, as reporters noted across Twitter.

RNC is sending out a fact check defending Bernie Sanders from HRC’s attacks on single payer health care. This feels weird.— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) January 18, 2016

The RNC is sending reporters multiple rapid response emails defending Bernie Sanders from Clinton’s attacks. Very unusual.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) January 18, 2016

To be fair, this isn’t entirely fever swamp talk here. Obviously there are people who would like to see Bernie Sanders do well in the primary for a variety of reasons. The most obvious one should be that no matter what the early head to head general election polling looks like, GOP observers are still largely confident that there’s simply no way that Bernie Sanders gets elected President. This theory is, admittedly, tempered a bit by the possibility that Hillary Clinton could be indicted by the FBI by the time the general election rolls around, making her even easier to beat, but frankly I think the odds of anyone in the Justice Department carrying through and slapping some cuffs on her under the current management are too low to consider, no matter how much evidence is presented. They just don’t prosecute their own, as we saw with both Lois Lerner and Huma Abedin.

But all of that speculation is still very premature. Jack Pitney points out some other possible advantages to having the GOP give Bernie a leg up.

“My guess is that Republican operatives know that Clinton is likely to win the nomination even if Sanders upsets her in Iowa and New Hampshire. But an extended challenge will force her to use up money too early, and nudge her farther to the left,” Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, told Bloomberg News. “[A]t this stage, campaigns will grab for every advantage they can get.”

That’s about right. There’s certainly a theory that a feisty, challenging primary makes a candidate stronger, and I agree with that idea. But if she begins to honestly worry about coming out on top she may have to start burning serious resources long before they’d planned to. And while healthy competition is a positive, if Bernie starts dishing any serious dirt it will just drag her down later. Finally, we’ve seen one cycle after another where Republican contenders were driven “too far to the right” during the primary, providing ammunition for the Democrats in the general. Right now we’re seeing the parallel effect with the Democrats and Hillary is taking some stands she’ll have to own in the fall.

So is this all a secret plan to elect Bernie? No, but it’s a pretty good plan nonetheless.

SandersHands