While Mitt Romney has not yet unleashed the full Death Star treatment on Rick Santorum that he lavished on Newt Gingrich in Iowa and Florida, that’s not to say his team hasn’t started up the engines of destruction. Here’s a Restore Our Future hit ad on Rick that’s running in Michigan, Arizona and Ohio:

As you can see, most of the ad is the usual “big spender” stuff that’s laying around in the Congressional Record about anyone who has served in Congress (with the exception of Ron Paul, who has never minded being on the losing end of 434-1 votes).

But then there’s the bit about Rick having “joined Hillary Clinton to let convicted felons vote,” complete with an image of the Red Queen cheek-by-jowl with Santorum while an orange-jumpsuited figure strolls past prison bars in the background.

This subject came up during one of the candidate debates in SC, when Santorum attacked Romney for an earlier Restore Our Future ad that suggested Barack Obama would be able to beat Rick in part because the Pennsylvanian had supported letting felons vote. In that case, Santorum was trying to spring a trap on Mitt over Massachusetts legislation enacted while Romney was governor that restored ex-felon voting rights.

In terms of the underlying issue, yes, in 2002 Santorum voted for an unsuccessful amendment that would have required states to restore voting rights for ex-cons who had completed their sentences and were no longer on parole, as 37 states do already.

The ad, of course, seems to suggest Santorum wanted to let felons vote right from their prison cells. And the reference to Clinton–one of 31 senators voting for the amendment, including Ohio Republican Mike DeWine, who until last week was backing Romney–is entirely gratuitous. Back in the day, conservative attack ads tried to lump their targets in with either Ted Kennedy or Barney Frank. But now Kennedy’s deceased and Frank is retiring from Congress, so I guess Hillary is the next best thing.

Aside from the general idiocy of the ad, it is a reminder of why current or former Members of Congress have a tough time getting elected president. All those votes can generate an extraordinary number of smears, not to mention ideological guilt by association.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.