Some Iowans have gotten an earful about one of the Republican candidates for president and most of the rest of the GOP crowd is denouncing the phone calls.
To many Iowans, it became apparent the calls were so-called "push polls" designed to introduce negative impressions of a candidate in hopes of swaying voters. The target was Mitt Romney and the goal, apparently, was to raise doubts about Romney’s Mormon faith.
State Representative Ralph Watts, a Republican from Adel who is also a Mormon, got the phone call on Wednesday evening and the caller asked Watts a number of questions about Mormonism. "I thought at the time, ‘For crying out loud, if this was a call about a Baptist, I think I would be a little bit offended because it has no place in presidential politics,’" Watts says. "Whether they’re Baptist or Catholic or any other religion we don’t, hopefully, use that as a test."
Romney appeared at a fundraiser for Watts last year and Watts is backing Romney’s bid for the White House. Watts fears some of the phone calls may have succeeded in turning people away from Romney. "People are willing to believe a lot of things negative…that’s why we see so much of it because it tends to work but, boy, I hope not," Watts says. "I’d hope people would look beyond that to get down to the facts and sort the whole thing out for themselves."
Watts and others have been unable to trace the calls to determine just who paid for them. Watts calls the episode a "dirty trick."
"Politics gets pretty dirty sometimes and we can just about expect it," Watts says, "but I don’t have to like it."
Romney himself has labeled the calls "un-American" and "under-handed." Romney’s rivals for the Republican nomination have denounced the calls, too. Fred Thompson used the word "smut" to describe them, while John McCain said the calls were "despicable" and McCain is demanding an investigation to uncover who’s behind them. Romney himself seemed to blame McCain, as Romney said the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform legislation opened a loophole which lets such activity happen.
Hear Watts describe the call in detail over at "The Blog" on www.radioiowa.com.