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Huckabee feints, or does he pull his punches?

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Author Topic: Huckabee feints, or does he pull his punches?  (Read 11 times)
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« on: December 31, 2007, 11:34:17 pm »

Huckabee feints, or does he pull his punches?
Huckabee shows reporters an attack ad he said he's too principled to run on TV.

December 31, 2007 3:12 PM

Boxing metaphors elude me on this one. Maybe I ought to learn more about aikido. I arrived at a crowded presser for Mike Huckabee today at a downtown Des Moines hotel and saw several placards at the front of the room attacking Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts. I readied myself for a statement denouncing Romney, who has run a series of anti-Huckabee and anti-McCain attack ads recently here and in New Hampshire. The time seemed right for a Huckabee counterpunch. But Huckabee had another move in mind, one that appears to play on the wisdom that the media will publicise provocative advertising free of charge. (See Tom Tancredo's ad on illegal aliens).

After letting reporters get nice and cranky in the crowded, stuffy conference room, Huckabee entered and announced the following:
1) The campaign had prepared an attack ad highlighting aspects of Romney's supposedly liberal record as governor and scheduled its launch at noon today on Iowa TV stations.
2) But Huckabee had a change of heart this morning and refuses to engage in negative campaigning. He pulled the ads before they could run.
3) Nevertheless, the campaign would show the ad to a roomfull of journalists and a dozen TV cameras.

Virtually every reporter in the room guffawed. "I know there's going to be cynicism," Huckabee responded. Reporters wanted to know why Huckabee hadn't merely canceled the ad, rather than calling a press conference to say he was canceling it.  Huckabee said he adding he only decided about 11 am to pull the ads, and that staff preparing the noon press conference didn't know about the change of theme. He said if he didn't show the ad, the media would question whether he'd ever produced one at all. The clip in question was a 30-second spot in which Huckabee addressed the camera and denounced Romney's attacks on himself and John McCain. He then question's Romney's integrity.

"If a man's dishonest to obtain a job," he said in the spot, "he'll be dishonest on the job."

A voiceover then states that Massachusetts executed no prisoners on Romney's watch, and describes a state-funded healthcare program with a "$50 copay". The campaign did decline to pass out DVD copies of the ad or provide a script. It's not on the website. Huckabee acknowledged that Romney's ads had hurt his campaign. One of those ads attacks Huckabee's record on government spending. The ad cites an October article by yours-truely in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, in which I pointed out that the state budget grew from about $6.6bn to $16bn under Huckabee. The ad also points out that Huckabee in 2005 backed a failed plan to give illegal aliens in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities. In recent days Huckabee has said Romney is "dishonest," and today he refused to withdraw that comment, even as he pledged he wouldn't run negative advertisements. "I spoke the truth, but it's not necessary for me to continue," he said.

UPDATE: The New York Times Katharine Q. Seelye calls it "an act of political jujitsu". There you go.
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