Yet another connection, albeit an indirect one, now ties Mitt Romney's presidential campaign to the recent spat of anti-Mormon phone calls made in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Several recipients of the calls, which raised questions about Romney's Mormon faith and military deferments, are prominent supporters of the former Massachusetts governor.
Marshan Roth of Fairfield, Iowa, who is paid $500 a month as a GOTV (get out the vote) consultant for the Romney campaign, received a call on this past Wednesday night. Rose Kramer of Dubuque, Iowa, who co-chairs Romney's Iowa faith & values steering committee and is a $1,000-a-month GOTV consultant, received a call either that same day or a day earlier, depending on conflicting reports.
Roth and Kramer are now the third members of Romney's Iowa campaign to have publicly acknowledged received the calls. Ralph Watts, a state representative in Iowa, who also backs the former governor, was one of the first people to come forward.
And yet, during subsequent press interviews, neither Roth nor Kramer disclosed the positions they held on Romney's team. In fact, as several other reporters have pointed out, both individuals drastically downplayed their campaign associations. And in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Roth took the opportunity to lash out against Sen. John McCain, the presidential candidate initially thought to be behind the calls.
"It was sick. It really was. It made me just furious," Roth told the paper. "If you didn't know enough about McCain, you'd think he was the white knight coming in on his charger saving the world and that Mitt Romney was tantamount to the devil."
The fact that three people on Romney's Iowa campaign staff found themselves on the receiving end of these controversial calls has led to suggestions that the candidate or organization behind the survey wanted it to go public. (Romney supporters were far more likely to come forward as the questions asked were offensive to the candidate they support).
However, the possibility exists that Roth, Kramer and Watts were all contacted by sheer coincidence. There are, to be sure, thousands of Iowa supporters for Mitt Romney among the state's caucus goers. The phone call survey undoubtedly contacted more than these three. As Kevin Madden, a spokesperson for the governor, noted, "I expect it's a statistical probability that any voter could get called."
But it also cannot be ignored that, even after the scandal surfaced, the actors involved were often in Romney's camp. Justin Hart, who serves on the Romney For President National Faith And Values Steering Committee and is a blogger at MyManMitt.com, was the only person contacted by a source in Western Wats for comment.
This Wednesday morning, Hart again weighed into the fray. Tracking down both Roth and Kramer, he was able to confirm that they received the calls, phoned their local Romney office, told their stories, and were then referred to the press. Whether or not Western Wats deliberately targeted the two Romney staffers, in anticipation that they would go public, is something likely to be determined by the New Hampshire Attorney General's office, if it chooses to investigate.
Update: TPM Election Central's Greg Sargent confirms with Romney spokesman Kevin Madden that Madden did not disclose the campaign affiliations of Roth and Kramer when he referred them to reporters.
Update II: An interesting take from a well-connected Republican:
"You wouldn't do this to yourself unless you wanted it to be known. So, what better way to do it then to orchestrate with people who are supporters of yours and then make sure that people know about it by the mere fact that you have them call your own staffers... If this is true [that Romney is behind this] his campaign has created a real problem for himself. The base supporters are not really wedded to him and now you have Huckabee ascending and he is just as acceptable for a lot of these people, as Romney. [Huckabee] becomes an acceptable alternative for people repelled by this mini scandal."