Democrats looking to make the 2012 election about people and not policy are beginning to step up the rhetoric claiming racism in the Republican party, a tactic that is generating cries of foul from some observers.
For example, some Democrats are charging that a Mitt Romney joke about birth certificates as well as GOP criticism of Obama welfare policy and Obamacare are "dog whistles" to racists in the party. But some pundits are saying the Democrats have gone too far.
"I think this is the same stuff you hear time and time again from Democrats," said Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America. "They are losing on ideas and are having a hard time defending a faltering economy. The unfair rhetoric geared toward racism and women's issues created by the Democrats will only get worse between now and November."
Chris Matthews, the hosts of "Hardball" on MSNBC, brought the subject of racism up several times during the show's Thursday edition. And even before the final gavel ended, Matthews warned viewers to "be on the alert for the tribal messages, the war drums of racial division" at the start of the convention.
"I believe racial division has been this country's greatest scourge," said Matthews. He went on to say that it is not less prevalent after President Obama's victory in 2008.
Yet as the race card goes, Republicans have long contended that Democrats employ a similar tactic as a way to bait Republicans into situations or comments where they could look or sound racist.
With Hurricane Isaac bearing down on the U.S. coastline, concerned GOP officials delayed the start of the convention for one day out of concern for the safety of its delegates and others in the path of the storm. But one journalist seemed to resurrect memories of Hurricane Katrina when residents, mostly minority, were displaced and killed in New Orleans below sea level ninth ward.
On Tuesday night, Yahoo! Washington bureau chief David Chalian questioned why the Republicans were holding their convention as Hurricane Isaac bared down on the Louisiana coast, saying, "They are happy to have a party with black people drowning." Chalian was fired the next day.
The news site released a statement soon afterward and offered an apology to the Romney campaign. "David Chalian's statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo!. He has been terminated effective immediately. We have already reached out to the Romney campaign, and we apologize to Mitt Romney, his staff, their supporters and anyone who was offended."
Democrats also point out a scene when a delegate from Puerto Rico was introduced to the delegates; some young white men were shouting, "Get them out" as others were shouting "U-S-A!"
Writing about the episode in a blog post on The Huffington Post on Friday, David Dunn said he has observed racism from both Republicans and Democrats.
"I am not about to suggest that Republicans are more racist than Democrats. There are plenty of Democrats who say and do racist things (Some of them go on to be vice president.)," wrote Dunn. "In some ways, Democratic racism is more problematic than what we saw in that video (shouting at the PR delegate) because it is harder to recognize. It often takes the form of patronizing congratulations. Democrats have a bad habit of making a special point to show how un-racist they are by showcasing the accomplishments of minorities, who somehow managed to make something of themselves despite their brownish 'disabilities.'"
Yet the color, tone and gender of many leading Republicans are changing. At least 14 women spoke at the GOP convention including Utah Congressional candidate Mia Love and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Still, Democrats remain unimpressed at the GOP lineup of speakers and focus more on the policies they are proposing.
One of the most glaring issues is that of requiring voters to present a valid photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. Democrats, including the Obama administration, charge the laws are nothing other than a throw-back to the old Jim Crow laws of the South that were designed to discourage minority voting. Republicans cry foul, saying they are only protecting the voting process by ensuring the person who turns up to vote is properly registered.
Democrats will tout the Voter ID issue, along with many others when their convention convenes in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday.