Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Huck is Losing it

Writing in The National Review, Byron York says Team Huckabee is trying hard not to appear defensive about the governor’s somewhat odd performance in the last couple of days, a period dominated by his I’m-not-going-to-air-this-negative-ad, but-I-am-going-to-show-it-to-the-press news conference and, later, by a full day of complaining about Romney’s attacks. By the end of those 48 hours, Huckabee seemed in danger of channeling Bob Dole’s famous -- and disastrous -- “stop lying about my record” moment from 1988.
This morning Mike Huckabee will appear at campaign events in Fort Dodge and Mason City, Iowa, and then, around noon, board a private jet for a destination not usually favored by front-runners on the eve of the Iowa caucuses: Burbank, California. There, he will tape an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and, after the show, hop back on the jet and head back to Iowa, planning to arrive by about 2 A.M. Thursday. His first event on Caucus Day will be at 8:30 A.M. in Burlington, and he’ll go straight through until the votes are counted in the evening.
York concludes Romney sees in Huckabee an opponent who has stumbled badly in the last 48 hours. In the unaired ad, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told me, “Huckabee did what many Iowa voters reject, which was that he put his fingerprints on the gun. He delivered his own negative ad, and it was very personal in nature.” Romney’s own attack ads — Madden always calls them “contrast” ads — feature an unseen stern-voiced announcer and don’t show Romney himself saying anything negative. “Huckabee’s closing argument seems to be very volatile and hot tempered,” Madden said.
Romney’s entire performance in the last month has been a test of the conventional wisdom that Iowans don’t like negative campaigning and will punish those candidates who engage in it. Madden argues that Iowa voters “tend to be accepting of contrasts on issues that are substantive and important in the debate.” Romney has bet a lot on that idea, but there’s no guarantee he’s right. For all he knows, voters might care little about an ad that Mike Huckabee didn’t air and very much about ads that Romney did air thousands of times. And in any event, the Huckabee campaign is betting that by caucus time, people will be talking more about Huckabee on The Tonight Show than about a press conference that virtually no one saw.
Read it.

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