The Democratic National Committee abruptly backpedalled late Wednesday on a pair of ads featuring a dancing dressage horse — like the one owned by Mitt and Ann Romney — to highlight the presumptive Republican nominee's "dancing" around issues.
The DNC issued a statement saying it regretted offending Mrs. Romney — who participates in dressage as part of her therapy for multiple sclerosis.
The curveball: Mrs. Romney never even took offense. And the episode was more a mark of Democrats' fear of provoking sympathy for the candidate's wife than of any move by the Republicans to capitalize on it.
"Our use of the Romneys’ dressage horse was not meant to offend Mrs. Romney in any way, and we regret it if it did," DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse in a statement released last night. The committee has not taken the ads down, but says it won't make more. "We were simply making a point about Governor Romney’s failure to give straight answers on a variety of issues in this race. We have no plans to invoke the horse any further to avoid misinterpretation."
The statement came more than twelve hours after Mrs. Romney sat down with ABC's Robin Roberts for an interview that aired this morning on Good Morning America — and about six hours after the DNC released its second installment of the horse web video.
In the interview, Mrs. Romney was shown the ad and asked how she felt, and her response was more derisive than defensive.
"Honestly, do you know how I really feel? I feel like I want to laugh. It makes me laugh," she said. "It’s like really?"
"There are so many people out of work right now, and there is this guy right here that has the answers for fixing the economy," she continued. "And all these attacks — they are going to try everything. And that is what people are going to have to ask themselves when they go in the voting booth in November: Are you better off now, do you really think the future is going to be brighter on the path we're on, or do you think we need a change."
The hyper-defensive response from Democrats is a reflection of the fact that Mrs. Romney is a sympathetic figure, and anything that could be seen as attacking her would likely backfire.