I wrote this morning about Mitch McConnell’s devious ways. But during the course of the day he and his people have really outdone themselves in making McConnell the victim in what started out as David Corn’s story (based on a “secret tape”) about the senator and some campaign operatives cheerfully discussing various twistable oppo-research findings about one-time potential rival Ashley Judd.

Brother Benen’s got the goods:

I’ve followed enough campaigns to know how the game is played. McConnell doesn’t want to talk about his opposition-research team digging up dirt, and certainly doesn’t want to talk about his willingness to use the suicidal thoughts of a sixth-grader as a legitimate line of attack in a Senate campaign, so instead he and his aides are trying a misdirection strategy — the recordings aren’t important, the argument goes; it’s how the recordings were obtained that matters.

It’s all rather transparent, predicated on the assumption — which is probably a rather safe one — that the political world is easily distracted by smoke and mirrors.

But the hysterical reaction isn’t helping McConnell’s case. The Republican senator’s office initially blamed “the Left” for “bugging” McConnell’s campaign headquarters. Then McConnell aides blamed Mother Jones magazine. Then Team McConnell blamed a local liberal group called ProgressKY. Then McConnell sent out a fundraising letter arguing that “the liberal media” is responsible.

That’s all today, folks. And it’s gotten steadily crazier, with McConnell calling in the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the “bugging” (which is pure speculation), and the NRSC demanding that everyone in sight denounce the conspiracy against Mitch.

Throughout it all, Team McConnell hasn’t addressed the substance of Corn’s story at all. And in that sense, it nicely reflects their standard M.O. in all circumstances: ignore substance; blow smoke; and then bask in the praise of the Beltway Commentariat for your “skill.”

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.