Well now, I might have been mistaken yesterday — perhaps Mike Huckabee really did overplay his hand with that pulling-of-the-negative- Romney-ad-right-after-I-show-you-the- negative-Romney-ad stunt. Last night on "Hannity & Colmes" Huckabee seemed to get a slightly less gentle handling than usual from usually- deferential-to-Conservative-bigwigs Sean Hannity (see how friendly he is with Rudy Giuliani! Oh, wait. ). Whatever the reason, Hannity challenged Huckabee on the maneuver, asking him bluntly why he'd run the ad right as he was making a big show out of pulling it. Huck said, as he had previously, that he did so to prove that the ad did exist. Hannity kept pressing, and mentioned the whole "the press actually LAUGHED at you" thing, which didn't sound better the next day. Huck kept his cool — and his talking points — but it wasn't the most genial exchange ever. (Newshounds has the video.)
But it was Alan Colmes who got the news nugget out of him, by asking him point blank if, well, he approved that message. "Is Mitt Romeny too dishonest to be President of the United States?" asked Colmes, referring to the last line of Huckabee's ad ("If a man's dishonest to obtain a job, he'll be dishonest when he gets the job. Iowans deserve better"). Said Colmes: "I want to know if you stand by the words of tht ad." Well, said Huck in a non-denial non-answer to the question, he never retracted anything — he just didn't like the tone. (Oh, you mean the tone where you note that "No executions" is a negative, up there with "provided a $50 co-pay on abortion?" Mmm, actually, no, Huck would still find that shocking. How do you get through a term without executing someone?). Colmes pressed, and Huck clarified somewhat:
Alan, I made it very clear that when you say things about an opponent's record that aren't true — or say things about your own record which aren't true — I don't know how else you call that but dishonest.
Oh, snap! The bit about Romeny fudging his own record was a nice cherry on top of that non-negative campaigning sundae. Huck went on to cite some examples, and Colmes called him on that, too, but Huck said, "I don't know how to answer it without being specific." And really he does have a point — which is why as a press gambit, it's working — whether or not the press respect him for having done so or not. Because, after all, there he was, top of the hour, on Hannity & Colmes, bringing up one of Romney's biggest Achille's heel: Pandering (that gets filed along with "flip-flopping" but in a separate — though no less damaging — folder for "Mormon").
An interesting point: Hannity & Colmes obtained an exclusive copy of the ad, airing it on Dec. 31st, and they ran it again; Huckabee claimed that he didn't know how they'd gotten it. It's a mystery! So that's two airings of the ads, not to be confused with how it's being talked up...and in the meantime, apparently it isn't playing badly in Iowa (per Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC today)(though it's too soon for poll numbers). So, who knows.
Huckabee's Media Savvy [ETP]