MCCAIN CAMP DEFENDS ENRAGED SUPPORTERS…. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz argued today, in reference to the bile evident at McCain campaign rallies this week, “McCain’s tactics are over the line, with no restraint in sight, and threaten to provoke reactions among partisans on both sides that will continue to escalate.”

Also today, Frank Schaeffer, a self-described conservative who has supported McCain in the past, accused McCain of “deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate,” concluding, “Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.”

In other words, the hate/fear/ignorance strategy isn’t going over well outside of those who are hateful, fearful, and ignorant.

Sam Stein reports that the McCain campaign has come up with a defense for the Republican ticket’s efforts to create an angry mob.

“Barack Obama’s attacks on Americans who support John McCain reveal far more about him than they do about John McCain. It is clear that Barack Obama just doesn’t understand regular people and the issues they care about. He dismisses hardworking middle class Americans as clinging to guns and religion, while at the same time attacking average Americans at McCain rallies who are angry at Washington, Wall Street and the status quo,” reads a statement from spokesman Brian Rogers.

Got that? McCain/Palin supporters have thrown around words like “treason” and “terrorist,” while others have literally called for violence, and if Obama points this out, he’s launching “attacks on Americans.”

I keep expecting McCain to denounce some of the enraged rhetoric and put an end to this nonsense — not out of a sense of decency, but because a reasoned tone might impress moderates and independents. But today’s statement suggests the McCain campaign is perfectly content driving unhinged conservative activists into blind rage, apparently under the assumption that enmity works.

It’s a base mobilization strategy built exclusively on anger and bigotry. How this campaign’s candidates and staffers can look themselves in the mirror remains a mystery.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.