A NEW TARGET…. The headline on the AP analysis piece yesterday seemed a little silly, at least at first blush: “Could GOP be playing into Dem hands?”

Right. Dems are struggling in the polls; their base is prepared to sit on their hands; their opponents have momentum and deep-pocketed corporate backing; and weak-kneed members on the Hill are crouched in fear … so clearly Dems have Republicans right where they want them.

But in fairness, the point of the AP piece — that the Republicans’ “Pledge to America” offers Democrats a big, new target — really isn’t silly at all.

House GOP leader John Boehner cast the “Pledge to America” as “a new governing agenda, built by listening to the American people, that offers a new way forward.” But he also acknowledged that it lacked specifics on important subjects like Social Security and Medicaid.

Much of it also adhered generally to age-old GOP principles. “They want the next two years to look like the eight years before I took office,” Obama asserted in New York. He derided the GOP plan as “the exact same agenda” even before the GOP officially rolled it out. […]

Facing a stiff political headwind, Democrats are grasping for any strategy they can find to minimize an expected shellacking on Nov. 2. And the GOP’s campaign manifesto gives the president’s party a potentially valuable tool as it tries cast the midterm elections as a choice that voters must make between two economic visions rather than a referendum on Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress as Republicans want.

You’ll no doubt recall that Democrats have been trying to goad the GOP to go down this road for quite a while. The point was hardly subtle — Dems wanted something to attack. Yesterday, Republicans proudly unveiled a bull’s-eye, and with it comes at least a hint of an opportunity.

After all, what’s the underlying point of the Dems’ election-year message? That Republicans are a far-right party pushing discredited ideas and the same failed agenda that got us into this mess in the first place. Yesterday, House GOP leaders offered in-print proof that the Democratic message happens to be entirely right.

Though the quote has been taken slightly out of context, John Boehner probably hurt his own cause yesterday when he declared, “We are not going to be any different than what we’ve been.”

So, what do Democrats do now? It might help to take the offensive, demanding to know if Republican candidates nationwide have endorsed a governing strategy that would bring back Bush-era economic policies, increase the deficit, raise taxes on small businesses, and take health care away from tens of millions of middle-class Americans. Dems can start referring to the new agenda in media interviews as the Republicans’ “controversial, widely-panned ‘Pledge.’”

They can even start mocking it, noting that Pledge is generally known for trying to put a new shine on dull, old surfaces.

The AP report added that in Republican circles on the Hill, there’s been a “private internal debate,” with some in the party preferring not to release an agenda at all, “worried it would open GOP candidates to criticism.”

Why not prove them right?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.