After days of withering attacks against ACORN and implications that the Obama campaign was using the community organizing group to perpetuate voter fraud, aides to the Illinois Democrat fought back on Tuesday.
In a conference call with reporters, campaign manager David Plouffe called the charge that ACORN was illegally registering voters (and that Obama had nefarious ties to the organization) a cynical "smokescreen" and an attempt to discourage people from going to the polls.
"This is just the start of what is going to be a very deliberate and cynical attempt to try and create confusion and challenge people inappropriately," he said. "They clearly, strategically, believe the more people who vote in this election, the less their chances are [for victory]."
At one point, Plouffe chided the conservative echo chamber that had painted ACORN -- which helps poor communities with a number of issues including voter registration and affordable housing -- as a criminal enterprise.
"Fox News has turned themselves into the 24-hour ACORN channel," he said, adding later: "We are not particular concerned with these predictable Republican tactics."
The voter registration debate is, in fact, highly predictable. Each cycle, Democrats cry afoul about voter suppression, while Republicans bemoan fraud. Victory in such political trench-warfare is usually defined in media narratives rather than registration numbers. Although the New York Times recently reported that,"Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law."
In fact, despite a week of constant complaints, there has been only one lawsuit filed by a Republican group against ACORN's efforts -- The Buckeye Institute, an Ohio-based think tank, filed a state RICO action on Tuesday.
To a certain extent, the faux-outrage of conservatives this go around seems painfully transparent. John McCain, for example, gave the keynote speech at a rally co-sponsored by ACORN in 2006. Other Republicans have also praised the organization's efforts.
Nevertheless, on the conference call, the Obama campaign said it was prepared for legal battles over voter rolls should they occur either before or after the election. The team, as the Huffington Post reported, has a bevy of volunteer lawyers willing to go to work on local levels. But they don't necessarily foresee it getting to that point.
"We have a very active aggressive legal operation," said Obama's legal counsel, Bob Bauer. "But we are not terribly worried. I'm not quiet sure what Sarah Palin [who warned of ACORN stealing the election] has in mind... It is something we are going to be prepared to deal with."