Hillary Clinton's campaign has made clear it is moving into a new phase of the race, where it will take a far more aggressive posture toward Bernie Sanders – but some in the Clinton camp may be getting overeager.
A super PAC run by top Clinton surrogate David Brock will begin airing advertisements questioning the physical fitness of the 74-year-old Vermont liberal, Politico reported. Brock directs the Correct the Record super PAC and sits on the board of Priorities USA, which is raising tens of millions of dollars to support Clinton.
Brock is a self-described hit man. He is a former journalist who helped lead the right wing's attacks on Hillary and Bill Clinton in the 1990s, later regretted it, and re-emerged as a staunch Clinton loyalist who now focuses on attacking their opponents (usually, though, the conservative ones) and raising money for Hillary Clinton.
But Clinton's campaign chairman was not pleased by the news that Correct the Record was about to unleash an attack on Sanders' health. "Chill out," campaign chairman John Podesta tweeted at Brock. "We're fighting on who would make a better president, not on who has a better physical fitness test."
Brock, for his part, denied the Politico report. He said Correct the Record had no plan to attack Sanders on his failure to disclose a doctor's report so far.
"Correct the Record is not going to attack Sen. Sanders on the issue of medical records, nor am I," Brock said in a statement. "I've said nothing about the issue."
He called media reports suggesting otherwise "false."
Regardless, the dust-up highlighted the pitfalls of campaigning by proxy. Unlike the official campaigns of candidates, super PACS are free to raise unlimited amounts of money. But they also are not beholden to the messaging of the official campaign – in fact, the organizations typically are prohibited by law from coordinating their activities with official campaigns.
Whatever Correct the Record may or may not have plotted or whispered about, the dispute did manage to focus attention for a short while on Sanders' age – and the Politico story made good fodder for a Sanders fundraising pitch.
"Hillary Clinton's campaign is reportedly launching one of the most desperate and vile attacks imaginable," said the predictable appeal for cash from the Sanders campaign Saturday night. "We can't let super PAC attacks on Bernie's health and health care plan scare people away from voting for Bernie."
Sanders said he will release his medical records soon, and that they reflect he is in good health.