President Obama’s campaign has spoken out against heckling, and on Tuesday it condemned Mitt Romney for not doing the same thing.
Heckling has become a big part of Romney’s campaigning style, though Republicans by no means have the monopoly on supporters loudly trying to disrupt or annoy their opponents.
On Monday, Obama adviser David Axelrod called on a group of Ohio protesters heckling Romney to stand down, calling heckling “their tactic, not ours.”
In an interview with Fox News radio Tuesday, Romney said his supporters should continue to do what they want.
From the AP:
He told Fox News Radio on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe in “unilateral disarmament,” but said it would “be a nice thing” if both sides would stop yelling at each other during campaign events. … Romney was asked if he would also condemn heckling during Obama events. He declined.
“We have sent a strong message to our supporters that this campaign should be an open exchange of ideas, not one where we drown out the other side by heckling and crashing events,” Obama spokesperson Ben LaBolt said in a statement. “Campaigns are a reflection of their candidate, and Mitt Romney has a different view, endorsing heckling.”
In the past, Romney has expressed pride in organized heckling put together by his campaign. When Axelrod held a press conference condemning Romney’s gubernatorial record on the steps of the Massachusetts legislature last month, a group of Romney supporters loudly booed and tried to disrupt the event.
Romney praised the protesters heckling Axelrod, and said they were organized by his campaign.
“At some point you say, you know what, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” Romney told reporters on May 31.
Most of the events I go to, or many of the events I go to, there are large groups of, if you will, Obama supporters there heckling me. If they’re going to be heckling us, why we’re not going to sit back and play by very different rules. If the president is going to have his people coming to my rallies, and heckling, why, we’ll show them that, you know, we conservatives have the same kind of capacity he does.”
At the time, the New York Times noted “paid Obama staffers have not publicly heckled or booed Mr. Romney or his team, as some of his staff did to Mr. Axelrod.”
Last week, a Romney campaign bus circled a group of Obama supporters in Ohio and honked its horn repeatedly, drawing jeers from the crowd. This week, Democrats organized a bus of their own to shadow Romney’s small-town bus tour across several swing states, organizing a large enough protest at a Pennsylvania WaWa to cause Romney to skip the event.
But if Team Obama has landed definitively on the side of no heckling, it sent mixed signals by criticizing Romney for going out of his way to avoid what was effectively a large group of hecklers organized by Democrats.
“In Pennsylvania today, Mitt Romney retreated from his planned bus tour route when faced with having to answer for his failed record as governor of Massachusetts,” the campaign said in a statement.