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2012 Republican Primary Candidates, Super PACs Scrub Attack Ads From YouTube

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WASHINGTON -- The Republican Party has decided that it is time to hit the reset button. After an acrimonious primary that featured millions of dollars spent on negative ads, the candidates and their supporting super PACs are now in the process of scrubbing their YouTube pages to remove any evidence of their attacks on one another.

The most negative of all the 2012 Republican primary players, Restore Our Future, is now in the process of destroying the past. The impossibly named super PAC that spent more than $40 million to tar and feather opponents of Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary has begun removing the vicious attack ads against Romney opponents from its YouTube page.

Gone missing at the moment are all attack ads run by the super PAC against former Sen. Rick Santorum, who endorsed Romney this week after dropping out of the race two weeks ago. These ads have been made private. Attack ads that the PAC ran against Newt Gingrich still remain, but the former House speaker has yet to formally pull out of the race and endorse the presumptive nominee.

Mitt Romney's official YouTube page has also taken its anti-Santorum ads private. Clicking on a previously embedded copy of these attack ads will yield only the message "This video is private."

The campaign of Rick Santorum has not made its anti-Romney ads private, but it has delisted them, making it hard for a viewer to find them within the YouTube site. The only way a person can see these videos is to already have had the link or to view them embedded into another website.

Santorum's supporting super PAC, the Red White and Blue Fund, has done the same, delisting all its attack ads, making them accessible to a viewer only with the original link.

This isn't the first time that one of the 2012 Republican primary candidates has eliminated their attack ad history from their YouTube presence. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a prior ambassador to China, immediately scrubbed the various anti-Romney videos his campaign had made during his unsuccessful primary campaign; those anti-Romney attacks had been some of the most direct at that time.

The process of eliminating the campaign record -- particularly taking videos private -- poses problems, not just for the historical record of the campaign but for news organizations that routinely embed YouTube videos directly from a candidate's or super PAC's official YouTube page. Those videos are no longer accessible in the stories.

The scrubbing of official YouTube accounts shouldn't be too worrisome, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the president of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, which runs the FlackCheck.org website, an attack ad watchdog.

"Since the attack ads survive in the relevant archives, they aren't lost to history but instead a bit more difficult to locate," Jamieson said in an email to HuffPost. "Some parts of some will undoubtedly live on in Dem attack ads."

In many ways, the Republican primary has been defined by attack ads, particularly those of Restore Our Future. The attack ad spending by the pro-Romney super PAC allowed Romney to shift expenses away from television advertising and toward other expenses. The group pummeled Gingrich in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida with more than $10 million in attack ads before shifting its focus to Santorum, targeting him with $20 million plus in such advertising before the former Pennsylvania senator exited the race.

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