Predictions of super PAC-fueled campaign ugliness seemed to come to reality on Thursday when reports broke of a potential conservative group's ad campaign aimed at tying President Barack Obama to a controversy put to rest nearly four years ago.
But conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts decided against a proposal from GOP strategists that would bring up once again Obama's association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a super PAC director said.
Wright, who once ran the church that Obama attended in Chicago, became a central figure in the 2008 election when videos emerged showing some of the pastor's provocative statements involving race relations in the United States.
Obama was eventually forced to distance himself from Wright to help spare his political image.
The proposal to bring Wright back into campaign dialogue, a plan first reported by the New York Times, quickly became the story of the day.
After hours of backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, Ricketts, commissioner of the ad campaign and founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade -- and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team -- said the plan was merely one of several proposals his group was considering.
Brian Baker, who heads the conservative super PAC supported by Ricketts, said Ricketts would not approve the scheme, as it "reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects."
"Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a president this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally," Baker said in a written statement.
If the super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, had taken up the plan, it would have attempted to link the president with Wright's philosophy, the Times reported.
Titled "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good," the ad campaign was to play off racial undertones and called for what the proposal described as an "extremely literate conservative African-American" as its spokesman, according to the Times.
The spokesman would make the case that Obama misleadingly portrayed himself in 2008 as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
The campaign would "do exactly what (Sen.) John McCain would not let us do," the Times reported the strategists writing.
When McCain ran against Obama in 2008, the Republican nominee famously refrained from pursuing the Wright angle and called out supporters at campaign events who mocked Obama's middle name, "Hussein."
On Thursday, McCain's former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, told CNN he was "never prouder" to work for McCain than when the senator refused to go after Obama over Wright's comments.
"It wasn't useful. It would have backfired. And more importantly it's wrong," Schmidt said.
CNN contributor Roland Martin agreed, saying Thursday such an attack would open up a can of worms for Republicans.
"If the GOP, if they want to do that, then guess what, you're now putting Mormonism on the table," he said, referring to Mitt Romney's Mormon faith -- a factor that has largely remained on the sidelines of this year's election.
The presumptive GOP nominee's campaign also came out against such attacks when asked to respond to the report. Team Romney argued the economy should remain the primary issue in the race.
"Unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same," Romney's campaign manager Matt Rhoades said in a written statement.
In a press conference later Thursday, Romney said he "repudiates" any efforts of "character assassination," arguing Obama's campaign has already attempted to take on such tactics.
Hitting back, Team Obama blasted Romney's camp for not releasing a stronger statement about the proposed ad campaign.
"Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a written statement.
White House spokesman Jay Carney later pointed to comments, not only from Democrats but also Republicans, suggesting that "to launch a multimillion-dollar divisive attack campaign is not what the American people want, and I think there are moments when you have to stand up and say that is not the right way to go."
Thursday's super PAC dust-up calls to mind some of the more nasty campaign tactics used in the Republican primaries earlier this year and poses the question of just how involved outside groups will be in stoking the already-heated fight between the Romney and Obama camps.
A relatively new addition the political game, super PACs were made possible by a 2010 Supreme Court case, known as Citizens United, that ruled in favor of allowing groups to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money so long as they do not coordinate with the campaigns they support.