Democrat Tells RNC Chairman, 'Call Off the Dogs'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - "Can you call the dogs off?" Democratic political analyst Bob Beckel asked Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson Thursday, in a heated moment on ABC's Good Morning America.

"Well, if you're not trying to contact any electors or not trying to bring up information or trying to flip their vote or something, I think it (the criticism) should [end]," Nicholson responded in the live interview.

According to the Nov. 29 Wall Street Journal, Beckel - since Thanksgiving Day - says he has received thousands of angry faxes, letters, and telephone calls, some threatening him over his plan to persuade Republican electors to support Vice President Al Gore instead of George W. Bush.

The newspaper reports Beckel now sits in a locked office with the blinds drawn. He's hired a private guard and sent his family out of town, after receiving at least one death threat. ("U DEAD," someone recently scrawled on the windshield of his car.)

Beckel blames RNC Chairman Nicholson for some of his woes.

In a recent RNC e-mail, Nicholson urged Republicans to "express your outrage at [Beckel's] low-handed tactics." The e-mail (a combined "action alert" and fund-raiser) urged Republicans to "Help Stop Democrat Elector Tampering." But RNC officials say they don't condone anyone threatening anybody.

On Nov. 16, the Wall Street Journal reported that Beckel had launched an "intelligence-gathering" operation to identify Republican electors who might either abstain from voting for Bush or who might switch their votes from Bush to Gore.

On Thursday, Nicholson suggested that Beckel's effort to identify "persuadable" Republican electors could be seen as an intimidation campaign - digging up dirt on electors to "help" them change their minds.

"You are wrong," Beckel responded. "I have never contacted an elector. You say in this [letter] I am doing a tampering scheme. I am not tampering with them. I have never contacted them."

"You guys have gone over the line," Beckel said. He accused Nicholson and the RNC of being factually and morally wrong, by suggesting that Beckel was doing something illegal.

"Do you have any information that I contacted electors?" asked Beckel. "You don't, because I didn't."

He continued, "The Constitution gives me a right to send a piece of mail to an elector...This is an incendiary time, Jim, and I will tell you, I'll take my responsibility for this project and understand how sensitive it is. But I didn't organize a massive campaign. You did. These people have a right to contact me. But you asked them to contact me by suggesting I've done something illegal. It's wrong, Jim."