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Who's Behind The Push-polling In New Hampshire?

My piece on McCain and New Hampshire will be in next week's print issue. But one thing I wasn't able to get into in it that bears watching is the New Hampshire attorney general's investigations into some possibly illegal push-poll calls that voters up there have been receiving. This AP article has a good rundown of the issue. Here's one bit:

The 60-second calls, which started Friday in New Hampshire, say they are a "public opinion survey," according to recipients. If voters say they plan to vote for McCain, the tone turns nasty. The last questions are favorable to Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. Before the campaign ends, Davis said, Common Sense Issues plans to call to more than 400,000 homes in the state.

Deputy Attorney General Bud Fitch on Wednesday agreed the push polling law specifically exempts primary campaigns, but he said it may well still apply to the anti-Mormon calls.

"Some of the information we receive is people are being asked who they are going to vote for for the office of president. We don't vote for president in January; we vote for the nominee of our party who then runs for the office of president," he said.

The callers in November said they were conducting a poll and asked voters if they knew Romney was a Mormon, that he received military deferments when he served as a Mormon missionary in France, and that none of his five sons served in the military. Other questions reflected favorably on McCain.

The interesting thing is that it was the McCain campaign that requested the investigations into both sets of calls--suggesting that the McCain people think that not only were the pro-Huckabee/anti-McCain calls designed to hurt them, but that the anti-Romney/pro-McCain calls were a dirty trick against them, as well, intended to help Romney by ginning up sympathy for him and framing McCain for a bad act. If the New Hampshire AG's investigations turn up what the McCain campaign seems to hope they will, that could provide him a big boost there.

--Jason Zengerle