Today, Governor Huckabee displayed a negative TV ad before the press while simultaneously claiming that he was running a "positive" campaign. Kevin Madden, our campaign spokesman, responded:
"To say one thing one minute and then turn around and show an attack ad to reporters the next will, obviously, leave folks with a very cynical view of Mike Huckabee and his message."
If you hadn't heard about this meltdown, you can check out Ambinder ("Huckabee Decides Not To Air Those Nasty Ads...And Then Airs A Nasty Ad") or Martin ("It's the sort of gambit that will instantly trigger cynicism among the political class, especially given the confusion that surrounded the move.") or Klein ("That sound you hear rumbling out of Des Moines appears to be a monumental implosion."). Or you can just watch the following clip from Fox News' Carl Cameron, who really captures the essence of this bizarre event:
FOX NEWS' E.D. HILL: "And some changes right now out on the campaign trail in Iowa. You know it is getting right down to the wire with three days to go. It is getting even stranger on the Mike Huckabee campaign trail. He just wrapped up a news conference with the national media and some interesting news. Carl Cameron is in Des Moines. So Carl, what happened there?"
FOX NEWS'S CARL CAMERON: "Well, we're on New Year's Eve 2007, the very eve of the 2008 presidential campaign, and boy I tell you what, we have had a moment, a classic Iowa caucus moment. Mike Huckabee has been tailing off a little bit in the polls and Mitt Romney has been surging. In part because Huckabee has made some mistakes on foreign policy related to Pakistan and other things but largely because Mitt Romney has been beating him up on the air. Yesterday, Mike Huckabee took most of the Sunday off, one of the last two full campaign days before the caucus on Thursday night in order to make what aids said would be tough, rebuttal, counter attack ads against the criticism that Mitt Romney has been airing on TV stations all over Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, etcetera. The media, locals, nationals, radio, print, TV, you name it, everybody was there, bloggers of plenty. Mike Huckabee walks … that say enough is enough and have all kinds of quotes from mitt Romney about taxes and abortion, and gun rights, and immigration and judges with his quotes with taking moderate positions and negative positions. Here you can see the video, were rolling it right now this is the freshest video that has happened at this point. Mike Huckabee and his entourage come into the room and announce that this ad that they worked on yesterday will not be run on television. the reporters burst into laughter when he said were going to play it for you here now just so you see that we did it but we no longer support the message in it. And even though these posters are there busting Mitt Romney for various different contradictory statements on a host of key Republican issues, and even though the ad is running on a big screen there in the room, there were some audio glitches that made it kinda look a Keystone Cops kinda thing for a moment there, but Huckabee was arguing that this is not a message that I am going to give to the Iowa voters now. He said that he made the ad and he thought about it last night. This morning we got conflicting reports from aids who said that, well its going to be an all positive ad in response, no its going to be very negative, no its positive, no its negative. He acknowledged that there was division amongst his aids and his advisors about whether or not this should happen. He took responsibility for the ultimate decision whether or not to run this ad, which was a tough ad attacking Mitt Romney. Now comes the analysis of this, the indecision, the disarray, the last minute change of plans, all of which will raise questions about what kind of leader, what kind of a candidate, what kind of a decision process was going on in camp Huckabee, and a whole series of political adages that go back decades in American political framework. And that is, if you're attacked, you got to answer it, and you got to counter attack. If you let a charge stand by a rival that calls you a flip flopper, or dishonest, or weak, or liberal if you are a conservative, or etcetera, and if you let that stand and don't fire back its often said, you get branded, and it takes hold, even if its not necessarily true. Well, Huckabee today said he is not going to do that on the air. There is a certain degree of argument that can be made that he's been saying it on the stump for the last week, calling Mitt Romney's ads and criticism dishonest and now he is essentially saying I won't say it again, even though he was running the commercial for the media that was gathered there to see it. They claim they will not make a copy available to any of the reporters. It did however go out to some Iowa TV stations, and if it airs on any local TV in Iowa, they say it will because those local stations didn't get the cancel order in time. That they say is also evidence that they didn't intend to do this. It's a big looming question now, and a classic Iowa caucus moment. A guy who was a front runner, dips in the polls, acknowledges that the criticism of him has hurt him in those polls, starts this morning talking about the possibility of coming in second, rather then first, and then at the last second pulls an attack ad. Dramatic reversal and now new questions about what's up with Mike Huckabee.
E.D." HILL: "All right, campaign Carl, thank you very much."