Democrats were quick to pounce on Thursday after capturing Rep. Joe Heck on video telling a Las Vegas audience he disagrees with Mitt Romney on strategy for a housing recovery.
Heck's remarks gave the opposition ammunition to lob shots both at him and at Romney. They claimed Heck was distancing himself from his favored presidential candidate.
At the same time, they pointed out that Heck was not the first, but only the most recent, prominent Romney supporter to disagree with him on pressing issues.
Heck was an early backer of the former Massachusetts governor and is co-chairman of Romney's presidential campaign in Nevada, so any daylight between the two of them is noticeable.
Plus, Heck's comments at a town hall meeting in East Las Vegas were tougher than his initial reaction last October, when Romney told the editorial board of the Review-Journal that government should let the foreclosure process "run its course and hit the bottom."
While Nevada leaders of both parties said at the time that Romney was off-base, Heck's reaction was measured. He said through a spokesman he agreed with Romney that the housing market "does need to reach bottom," but that he supported "a soft landing rather than a hard crash" by having the government continue to offer assistance to people trying to stay in their homes.
But on Tuesday at the Windsor Community Center, Heck was asked again about what Romney said.
"Mitt Romney and I don’t agree on every issue and certainly housing is one of them," Heck answered. "When you look at what is going on here in Southern Nevada, you can’t say you got to let the housing market hit bottom. We have been bouncing along the bottom for years. And the fact is we have to do everything possible to one, keep people in their homes and two, get people who are out of their homes back into their homes."
A Democratic tracker captured Heck's remarks on video. You can see it here.
After the video was posted online, Democrats and liberal bloggers leaped.
On an MSNBC blogsite, Steve Benen listed Heck among the "worst.surrogates.ever," and pointed to other states where top Romney supporters disagree with their man.
"One has to wonder how Romney is picking up so many endorsements from people who don’t agree with him on the most pressing issues in their respective states," wrote Pat Garofalo on the Think Progress blog associated with the Center for American Progress.
John Oceguera, the Democrat who is challenging Heck for his seat in Congress, said the incumbent "caved to pressure" to criticize Romney.
For Heck it was the second time he said something at a town hall meeting that came back to bite him. Last May, he came under fire after calling Social Security a "pyramid scheme." He later tempered his remarks, saying he was "fully committed to protecting the promise of Social Security.
On Thursday, Heck's spokesman sought to play down his comments about Romney and housing. Greg Lemon maintained what Heck said this week was not much different from what he said last fall.
"He's not trying to distance himself from Romney," Lemon said. "It's not unusual to not agree 100 percent of the time. He didn't necessarily agree with President Bush 100 percent of the time either.
"On housing, the congressman articulated a slightly different approach. I think they both agree the critical first step is to let the market fully run its course so we can start to bounce back, but within that the congressman supports the idea of giving folks in Southern Nevada a soft landing and a path forward. Federal policies helped us on some level to get into the mess we are in right now and he believes responsible federal policies can help us get out. That has been his position all along."