The Heller Defense: “I’m Not Attacking Opponent; My Campaign Is”

Here’s a new one, sports fans, via The Hill‘s Cameron Joseph:

When The Hill pointed out he was running attack ads that say [opponent Shelley] Berkley “pushed legislation and twisted arms of federal regulators, advocating policies for financial gain, saving her husband’s industry millions,” [Sen. Dean] Heller interjected.

“The campaign is. If you have any questions or comments it’d probably be better if you directed those towards the campaign,” he said. “Just talk to the campaign, they’re the ones dealing specifically with this issue. Right now, I’m just worried about jobs and the economy.”

Hoo boy. It’s the equivalent of “talk to the hand,” but The Hill seemed to buy it, or so the article’s headline would indicate: “Heller refuses to echo his campaign’s criticism of Berkley.”

Maybe Heller is just a pioneer in drawing a distinction between himself and his own campaign. I’ve been wondering why the vitriol that’s suddenly pouring out of RomneyWorld is coming from campaign surrogates rather than Super-PACs. But perhaps Mitt will use the Heller Defense, and say: “You’ll have to talk to my campaign about their insinuations that the president is a dope-smoking socialist who’s unleashed the frightening Stephanie Cutter to destroy me and my wife. I’m just worried about jobs and the economy.”

After all, if Romney’s not responsible for Bain Capital’s behavior, why should he be held responsible for his campaign’s behavior?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.