Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz attacked the GOP presidential contenders on their own terms Thursday.
The Florida representative questioned just how dedicated they were to "American exceptionalism."
"Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman ... I'm concerned about their commitment to American exceptionalism," Wasserman Schultz said at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
As party chief, Wasserman Schultz will be one of the leaders of the Democratic message machine in the 2012 race.
Republican presidential candidates including Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) have made the notion of exceptionalism a centerpiece of their campaign. Namely, Republicans accuse President Obama of not understanding that notion, which holds that the U.S. is fundamentally different from other countries.
"The governor wrote a whole book about it. It's called 'No Apology,'" said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney. "We'll be happy to send her a signed copy."
Wasserman Schultz said she in no way was calling those GOP candidates unpatriotic, but that she doubted their commitment to the idea of U.S. exceptionalism. She also laid out a litany of policies she claims those GOP figures should have supported if they were that committed to the concept.
"Why aren't they supportive of closing tax loopholes to make sure that we cannot incentivize companies to ship jobs overseas?" she asked, riffing on a series of questions on the GOP's policies on taxes, the auto industry and other issues. "These things — without them it would have prevented us from out-educating and out-innovating and out-competing our competitors in the global economy.
"Voters like to know that you are who you are, and this is what you stand for," she said. "So when they see Newt Gingrich on a Sunday news show talk about Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE's 'radical' plan to end Medicare as we know it, and that right-wing social engineering is just as bad as left-wing social engineering, and then two days later he's putting in a phone call to Paul Ryan to apologize — when you see Jon Huntsman, who supported components of the Affordable Care Act and the essential structure like the Affordable Care Act in Utah, but then runs from that — when you see Mitt Romney say that he opposes the auto bailout but now tries to embrace it a little bit more, that's just hypocrisy, and the voters see through that."
Republicans shot back.
"Rather than point fingers at Republicans who have demonstrated fiscal leadership, Debbie Wasserman Schultz should take a look in the mirror," said Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee (RNC) spokeswoman, in response. "Yesterday not a single Democrat was willing to support the president’s federal budget, pointing to a speech the president gave in April that he refuses to put on paper and present as an actual plan."
Last updated 1:18 p.m.