A Republican National Committee conference call Thursday morning aimed at putting the heat on President Obama instead devolved into a discussion of whether the Virginia Republican Party chairman intended to insult the residents of the Windy City by taking aim at Obama’s Chicago political roots.

The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

On the RNC call, which comes as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney spends his second straight day campaigning in the Old Dominion, Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins described Obama as “a cold, calculating Chicago political operator.”

“Clearly, he was just selling us a heap of phony rhetoric,” Mullins said of the Obama of 2008.

Chicago’s reputation for bare-knuckle politics is well-known, and Republicans on the trail frequently make jabs at the city that is Obama’s political homebase.

But Mullins appeared to be caught off-guard Thursday when he was asked by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times to explain what exactly he meant by the phrase.

“It’s just sort of a descriptive phrase that, here in the South, that’s how we think,” he said.

Mullins emphasized that he meant no insult to Chicagoans and that “it really doesn’t mean anything derogatory or demeaning to the good folks up there.”

RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who was on the call along with Mullins and the chairman of the Ohio GOP, also stressed that no ill will was intended.

“I love Chicago. I’m from Kenosha,” Priebus said, referring to his hometown in neighboring Wisconsin.