Push-Polling-Gate: UPDATED

Much ado is now being made about the push-polling against the Romney campaign--which specifically targeted his Latter-Day-Saint religion. There are several theories floating around out there, including (but not limited to):

  1. Romney's campaign did it to themselves, to get the issue out of the way. Evidence for this is supplied in the facts that the firm making the phone calls, Western Wats, has done work for Romney in the past, and another firm, Target Point, which appears to be involved has also been hired in times past by Romney. Also in the mix, Western Wats has several employees who have made contributions to the Romney 2008 campaign.
  2. Giuliani's campaign is behind it. Seems that a polling company used by Giuliani, the Tarrance Group, also has connections to Western Wats.
Personally, I find it hard to believe either of the above, though the accusations have been splashed all over the web... I found the following breathless section on National Review Online:
According to Whocallsme.com, on August 16 — almost exactly three months before the anti-Romney calls were made in Iowa and New Hampshire, a user named Bruce reported:
Call from Amanda at Target Point Consulting
66 Canal Center Plaza No. 555
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 535-8505
fax: (703) 535-8517
Caller ID: (801) 623-4621 [Emphasis Added]
Caller: Target Point Consulting
A Western Wats-Target Point connection sets off alarm bells since the Romney campaign has paid Target Point consulting $720,000.

Target Point’s president, Alex Gage, is a pioneer in the direct-marketing data-mining technique known as microtargeting. The Bush campaign spent nearly $3 million on Gage and Target Point’s services in the 2004 election. In the 2008 election cycle, Gage has been working closely with Romney. The Washington Post headlined an article about Gage “Romney’s Data Cruncher” and has elsewhere identified Gage as part of “Mitt Romney’s Inner Circle.”

Adding to the intrigue, Western Wats employs a dialer named Amanda Earnshaw who, according to election records, has made the maximum allowable donation of $2,300 to Romney’s campaign. Further, Federal Election Commission records reveal that Amanda’s husband Seth Hutchings, her father Craig Earnshaw, mother Colleen, and brother Berton have all maxed out donations to the Romney campaign. Craig Earnshaw is active in Romney’s campaign, serving as Utah’s co-chair for the state’s “Rally for Romney” fundraiser on September 28, 2007.
My Lord, we've got her! It's this "Amanda" who is behind it all... she works for Western Wats, and she also gave to the Romney campaign! And it's such an uncommon name that it just has to be the same person!

(disclaimer for those with their undergarments permanently in a twist: the above paragraph is sarcasm and satire.)

Puh-LEEZE! This is the sort of nonsense I, at least, expect from DailyKos, MoveOn, or Democratic Underground, not from National Review. A first name as common as Amanda simply cannot logically be used to prove anything.

As for the Giuliani accusation, that's just as ludicrous. Guilt by association has long since been revealed as invalid.

No, for my money, I go with what Jim Geraghty--also, let it be noted, working for National Review--has said:
The more I hear angry accusations from campaigns, and the more bad blood that is stirred, and the accusations that some campaigns employ bigoted arguments against a candidate, I start wondering... isn't this what some deep-pocketed Democrat would want to see in the GOP primary?
Indeed, as a conjecture this one has good legs under it. If a Democrat wanted to do this and reduce the risk of it being traced back to them--and unlike some of my fellow conservatives, I do admit that there are some pretty smart Democrats--they'd naturally use a company with lots of ties to Republicans, and if they can use one with direct ties to Romney, so much the better.

In short, this whole thing has "Politics of Personal Destruction" written large all over it. Whether it is Mrs. Clinton or one of the Democrats who learned the art from the eight years of Clinton ascendancy has yet to be determined, but it seems to be accomplishing exactly what the Party of the Donkey would want to see right now.

Let me also point out that I am neither a Romney nor Giuliani supporter... just take a gander at the sidebar to see which candidate I support. However, it is clear, from the points above, that if some hyper-partisan wants to make of this a case against Mitt or Rudy, they're gonna have to do a lot better than they have so far.

UPDATE: Well, not so much an update as an explanation of a point and the introduction of a new point that occurred to me after posting this last night.

First off, the "Amanda" thing. Mr. Mark Hemingway, the NRO columnist whose breathless article I excerpted above, seems to be conflating two Amandas. There is the one that works for Western Wats, who donated to Romney, and apparently another one that works at TargetPoint, and called "Bruce" from a Utah number. There is, at least so far, absolutely no evidence that they are the same person. Amanda is far too common a name for there to be any sort of assumed link... now, if the person was named Zaphod Beeblebrox, it could be assumed that they were the same person, but Amanda? It fails the laugh test.

Second, the assumption that Mitt or Rudy had something to do with this also fails the laugh test. In order to believe that, one would have to believe that the campaign--whichever one you fancy as the culprit--had staffers who were unaware that the Western Wats connection would be highly indicative of the campaign's involvement. Stripped of the fancy language--sorry, I get too verbose at times... and there I go again--Mitt or Rudy's people didn't realize that the use of Western Wats would point a huge glowing finger straight at them. I simply cannot believe that two such successful campaigns as Mitt's and Rudy's would have such incompetent people in a position where they could set up such a program. Now, Ron Paul's campaign... maybe. (Ooooh, am I gonna get hate mail for that one... good thing I have comments moderated.)

The more I look at this the more fantastic the accusations against Mitt and Rudy look. From Mr. Hemingway's article, it almost seems like Amanda might have been the person on the "grassy knoll" as well. Such outlandish conspiracy theories belong on the left, not in a heretofore respectable journal of conservative thought such as National Review.