From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
Since some of Romney's advisers are against him giving a speech on his faith, his adversaries are ready to give it for him.
AP reported this morning that calls are circulating in New Hampshire regarding Romney's faith, and NBC's John Boxley reports that Romney responded to the news by calling those attacks "un-American." He also raised some eyebrows with his charge that the McCain-Feingold legislation opened the door to such attacks by allowing the identities of those behind the push polling to stay hidden. And Boxley reports that the candidate found it ironic that McCain is now the one to be calling for an investigation.
Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades issued the following statement: "Whichever campaign is engaging in this type of awful religious bigotry as a line of political attack, it is repulsive and, to put it bluntly, un-American. There is no excuse for these attacks. Governor Romney is campaigning as an optimist who wants to lead the nation. These attacks are just the opposite. They are ugly and divisive."
New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a representative for the campaign, called for an expedited investigation this afternoon, and stated: "New Hampshire voters are sophisticated enough to see through these types of negative campaign tactics and strongly resent this type of campaign in our state. I know [NH] Attorney General Kelly Ayotte will see through this case with the seriousness it deserves in a thorough and timely fashion."
Fred Thompson's campaign has also jumped at denouncing the attacks, calling it "robo-dial bigotry," which serves only "to prop up Democrats tomorrow."
Politico's Jonathan Martin reports on anti-Romney push-polling in Iowa as well. One Iowa community college teacher contacted Martin, "saying he received a call with information about McCain's military service and anti-spending record. Then there were 'lots of negatives on Romney,' said the recepient of the call in an e-mail, including mentions of his 'flip-flops,' hiring illegal immigrants as landscapers and extensive discussion of Mormonism.
" 'Statements were on baptizing the dead, the Book of Mormon being on the level of the Bible, and one about equating it to a cult,' said the Iowan, deeming them 'common criticisms of Mormonism.''I think they asked twice if being a Mormon would be an issue.'"
The American Association of Public Opinion Research put out a statemtent called "When advocacy calls are made under the guise of research," denouncing and explaining the practice.
*** UPDATE *** The Giuliani campaign's Communications Director, Katie Levinson, said in a statement: "There is no room for this sort of thing in politics. Our campaign does not support or engage in these types of tactics and it is our hope other campaigns will adhere to the same policy."
*** UPDATE 2 *** A Romney senior strategist in an early primary state said this afternoon that although the campaign wants voters to realize that Romney is a man of faith, that isn't a message they are pushing for fear of implied contrast. Put another way: If they push Romney as a devout, family man, they're worried that there will be pushback from other campaigns who will complain that the Romney camp is attacking other candidates personally.
*** UPDATE 3 *** The Thompson camp has been calling these robo-calls, but that is incorrect. There are no robots involved. These are live people who are calling.