Republican operatives are trying to help Bernie Sanders

These Republican operatives are attempting to pick their Democratic opponent in the general election, and they’re making clear they’d rather face Sanders than Clinton. It is age-old political manipulation tactic, typically used with some subtlety. It comes as recent polls show Sanders as competitive in Iowa and leading in New Hampshire, where back-to-back Sanders victories could endanger Clinton’s national lead.

“In Iowa, American Crossroads is helping Bernie Sanders by depicting Hillary Clinton as a Wall Street insider,” Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, wrote on his blog.

“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,” Pitney said in an e-mail. Whether it will work remains to be seen, he said. “But at this stage, campaigns will grab for every advantage they can get.”

Priorities USA, a group backing Clinton, said the ad was designed by Republicans to “interfere with our primary process” in an “attempt to clear their path to the White House.”