Democrats may be playing with fire this primary season

Full disclosure, when I was a Democratic campaign consultant, I once produced ads to meddle in a Republican primary by attacking the well-heeled Republican frontrunner. But the attacks, which were about the opponent’s questionable business practices and not his ideology, were meant to defeat, not elevate him in that primary.

This is a different kettle of fish.

Each Democratic campaign will argue that the candidates who ultimately won did so because they represented what Republican primary voters wanted. Indeed, in the Colorado primary Tuesday, the Akin play didn’t work. A right-winger boosted by Democratic attack ads lost the Republican nomination for the US Senate. The market decided.

But politics isn’t a game, as much as we often treat it as one. At a time when faith in our system and elections is so strained, I can’t help thinking that this only adds to growing cynicism about their legitimacy. And at a time when we need both parties to produce responsible choices, this cross-party manipulation works against it.