WASHINGTON – The days of the Democratic Party keeping the Occupy Wall Street movement at arm’s length appear to be ending, even as Republicans continue to hammer away at the progressive protesters.

For a while, the Democratic establishment appeared to view the protests as something of a crazy relative. But Monday, the party’s House campaign arm made it clear that it stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the movement.

In an email to supporters, Robby Mook, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote: “Protesters are assembling in New York and around the country to let billionaires, big oil and big bankers know that we’re not going to let the richest 1 percent force draconian economic policies and massive cuts to crucial programs on Main Street Americans.”

The missive criticized House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., for using the word “mobs” to describe the protesters.

“That’s what Republicans refer to as the middle class, or maybe the millions of unemployed Americans across the country,” Mook wrote.

The email asks the recipient to sign a petition in support of the protests, signifying that a sea change of sorts regarding the establishment view of the movement seems to have occurred in the last few days.

First, Vice President Joe Biden and then President Obama signaled they sympathized with the movement. Then, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi gave it a full-on embrace Sunday. “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We cannot continue in a way that does not — that is not relevant to their lives. People are angry.”

The endorsement of the movement tracks the newfound emphasis the Democrats are placing on economic inequality as Obama readies a push for his American Jobs Act. Various proposals have been offered by the White House and the Senate involving increasing taxes on wealthier Americans. And in travels across the nation, the president has been eager to place the GOP on the side of big business and billionaires.

For their part, Republicans have argued that the protests are a natural occurrence of what they see as Obama’s denigration of the wealthy.

At a town hall in New Hampshire on Monday, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the movement was born of people “seeking scapegoats.”

According to the Hill newspaper, Romney said, “Don’t attack a whole class of Americans, whether they’re rich or poor, white or black. This isn’t the time for divisiveness.”