DEFINE ‘DEMONIZE’…. The AP has an analysis piece today on Republicans’ subtle acknowledgement of President Obama’s popularity. There’s nothing especially wrong with the concept — it is difficult for a defeated minority party to go up against a president with a high approval rating — but the AP makes an unfounded assumption.

Congressional Republicans show no desire to demonize President Barack Obama, so they’re condemning Democratic leaders instead. […]

Listen to the No. 2 Republican leader in the House, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia. “We want to work with this president,” he said Sunday. “We want people to regain their confidence in Washington. And what people are looking for is results.”

But what of the $787 billion economic recovery legislation that not a single Republican in the House supported? That, Cantor said, was “Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi’s stimulus bill.” […]

The Republican goal is to separate Obama from his policies and go after congressional Democrats, who fare much more poorly in public approval.

Sure, that makes sense. In fact, it’s not even a bad idea for Republicans — sidestep a fight with a popular White House, co-opt the president’s rhetoric about cooperation, target congressional Dems as inflexible partisans, and try to drive a wedge between the Democratic administration and Democratic Congress.

The problem, though, is assuming that Republicans “show no desire to demonize” the president. The rhetoric from the GOP base has been extraordinarily unhinged towards Obama, and more to the point, Matt Corley noted that several leading Republican lawmakers, including both the House Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader, have been going after Obama, accusing him of pursuing “socialism.”

Does a “red scare” not count as “demonizing” anymore?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.