"Let me be perfectly clear: Our campaign was not and is not involved with any efforts to engage in alleged push polling calls against our own candidate."
That's Mitt Romney spokesman Kevin Madden, responding to suggestions that the Romney campaign is trying to drum up sympathy for the candidate by orchestrating telephone calls that raise questions about Romney's religious faith.
According to the Associated Press, residents of Iowa and New Hampshire who've received the calls were asked if they know that Romney is a Mormon, that he received a draft deferment while on a Mormon mission in France, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn't accept blacks as bishops until the 1970s, and that Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is superior to the Bible.
The calls have been traced to Washington Wats, a Utah-based company with a number of Romey campaign contributors on its payroll -- facts that, among others, have led everyone from the Huffington Post to the National Review to posit that Romney's campaign is behind the calls.
If Madden's denial takes Team Romney out of the picture -- maybe, maybe not -- who else could be behind the calls? The calls cite John McCain's military service, leading some to point the finger at his campaign. McCain says he's not involved, and one of his advisors suggests that the calls are the handiwork of some other GOP candidate. Western Wats has said that Rudy Giuliani's pollster -- an early suspect -- wasn't involved but won't say more except that the company doesn't do push polling. Fred Thompson has called the calls "robo-dialing bigotry," which is half right -- the calls are being made by live human beings. In addition to Romney, the National Review has suggested that the culprit is "somebody with deep pockets, a relatively new desire to play in the political game, and little concern about long-term relationships in the GOP," or, in the alternative, DailyKos.
So who really did it? We haven't the slightest idea, but we can't say we're not enjoying the show. Our favorite scene so far? This pot-calling-the-kettle moment from Chris LaCivita, who served as chief strategist for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 before going on to advise Sen. George Allen in his unsuccessful 2006 Senate race: "I can't imagine a presidential campaign sanctioning that type of effort. If they were, then they are the biggest bunch of dumbasses, and they have no business being involved at this level of politics."