First off, hats off to Justin Hart of My Man Mitt who has been getting some inside info from a Western Wats source and has been on top of the debate (scroll through the posts there for the last couple of days to get all the updates and the "real-time" feel of how the accusations have been flying).
I was shocked this morning by National Review Online's Mark Hemingway who wrote the following in his piece titled "Did Mitt Romney Push Poll Himself?" (real subtle there Mark):
However, there’s a growing chorus of voices speculating Romney push polled himself. “I smell a dirty trick. I suspect a pro-Romney motive to inoculate against future use of the religious issue and to breed sympathy for Romney … a 20-minute call is the work of an amateur. The long call is designed to get ALL the negatives out, to put them off limits for future attacks,” Roger Stone — a master of Republican dirty tricks — told The Politico’s Jonathan Martin. Stone pointed out that Robert F. Kennedy was behind anti-Catholic campaign tricks — calls and literature — to help get the first Catholic president elected. An anonymous website attacking Fred Thompson with ties to the Romney consultants in South Carolina earlier this cycle suggests such earnestness may not be below Romney campaigners.
Asked if it’s reasonable to think a campaign would do such a thing — push poll itself — one political consultant familiar with phone banking and dirty tricks who asked not to be identified told NRO, “I’ve done it,” he said. “But it’s usually the kind of thing that you do in a close state-senate race, not a stunt you pull under the scrutiny a presidential campaign is subjected to.”
. . .
The Romney campaign, ultimately, has the power to clarify any misconceptions. If there is a relationship between the two firms, then Alex Gage and Target Point should immediately clarify the extent and nature of the work that it has contracted out to Western Wats to end speculation and exonerate Romney.
Next, The Directors of RedState (as a group) penned the following piece titled "Overplaying the Bigotry Card:Romney's Chief Strategist Behind Un-American Calls?"
They end their piece which ramped up speculation that Romney's Team was Push-Polling itself with this doozy:
And as for Alex Gage and the Romney associates who are apparently behind these efforts: in a campaign where the faith of your candidate has been respected by the overwhelming majority of voters and activists, you've managed to create out of thin air the kind of bigoted attack that cheapens the process and expects the worst of the American people. Nice strategy, folks. We hope you're happy.
Can you believe that slander?
Well, it turns out that these media savvy writers/bloggers didn't have the sense or professionalism to even contact Gage or the polling firm they implicate before going forward with the story. Gage responded with some classic lines that NRO published with their head editor KLo offering a mea culpa:
To set the record straight: TargetPoint Consulting has absolutely nothing to do with the calls in question. To be even clearer: TargetPoint Consulting has NEVER and will NEVER conduct a push-poll. . . .
It is very disappointing that the person who wrote this piece included the bizarre fabrication that perhaps the Romney campaign push-polled itself. . . .
Neither I nor TargetPoint was contacted before publication of this piece. Not by email. Not by voice mail. If the person representing National Review had bothered to take this most basic journalistic step, we would have told him on the record that TargetPoint Consulting had nothing to do with this and that his theory was entirely erroneous and absent any merit. The truth would have dulled the sensationalism considerably – probably to the point that responsibility would have dictated not publishing it at all.
I am not sure what, if any, motives the author may have, but now that it has been published, this piece has unfairly smeared me, my firm and the Romney campaign.
We can only hope in the future that National Review will be more consistently involved in reporting the news, and not taking off on detours into the fever-swamps of loony conspiracies. If there is any mystery to be uncovered regarding these polls, it will be by real reporting and not irresponsible speculation that tramples the good names of reputable pollsters and polling firms.
EDITOR'S NOTE: NRO did not contact TargetPoint and should have. —KJL
Hemingway, though, seems to be digging his heels in the sand:
TargetPoint Consulting — one of the Mitt Romney campaign's primary consultants — is not happy with my story this morning that notes publicly reported connections between their company and a firm that performed push polls against Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire.
I've read TargetPoint's response numerous times and it doesn't invalidate my story or address the specific nature of their relationship with the firm that allegedly made anti-Mormon calls against Romney. I'll report more as I ask more questions.
The RedState Directors said they'd respond to Gage's defense "soon enough" . . . but that was over 12 hours ago (which is an ETERNITY in blogging terms). We're still waiting.
Many of us feel that our candidate isn't getting a fair shake from either the MSM or the conservative pundits/bloggers in general. This kind of behavior of "eating their own young" doesn't inspire confidence and shows how biased some of these apparent "reporters" are.
Sad Sad Sad.