Romney spoke in glowing terms that evoked the sunny optimism of former President Reagan, to whom Romney referred several times. At the end of the day, Romney departed for Iowa, where he will remain through its Jan. 3 caucuses. After that, he will campaign around-the-clock in New Hampshire before its Jan. 8 primary.
"No one votes for yesterday; they vote for tomorrow," Romney said at one point. "Elections are about the future, the future of our families, the future of our country."
It is a rare thing to get an AP reporter to bless any campaign moment with a comparison to Ronald Reagan's sunny optimism. Romney's not the only candidate on the trail that brings enthusiasm and energy to the race day in and day out, but Senator Obama is on the other team, and Rudy is struggling because the mayor relied on a strategy that keeps him on the bench until Florida. GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who care about winning in November should keep in mind that Reagan won massive victories in November 1980 and 1984 because he encouraged the country to believe it could beat the Soviet Union, could spread prosperity, and could defend freedoms at home while exporting them abroad and he did so with a smile and a joke backed by incredibly delivered rhetoric. It is about the right vision married to the right skills set.
Romney's new ad, "Future," keeps the focus on the election and the years ahead while reminding voters of Senator McCain's opposition to the Bush tax cuts and the McCain-Kennedy immigration "reform" attempted jam down. ( More on Senator McCain's record of putting his finger in republican eyes here .)
Mike Huckabee is in deep trouble, and not just for gaffe upon gaffe. The new revelations about accepting money from stem-cell research groups may disturb even his most dedicated evangelical supporters. From Politico.com:
Mike Huckabee last year accepted $52,000 in speaking fees from a bio-tech giant that wants to research human embryonic stem cells, a non-profit working to expand access to the morning after pill and a group pushing to study whether tightening gun control laws will reduce violence.
The deflation of the Huckabee campaign frees up voters to go to either Romney, Thompson or McCain though any evangelical leaving Huckabee is unlikely to look past Senator McCain's opposition to a federal Marriage Amendment or the Gang of 14. Romney and Thompson are both pushing conservative agendas, but the momentum is with the former governor as the home stretch opens in Iowa.
UPDATE: Another Huckabee gaffe! The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports that the former Arkansas governor puts Afghanistan on Pakistan's eastern border in comments defending his foreign policy credentials.
This sort of a misstep isn't serious in the summer or even the fall, but coming six days before voting after yesterday's gaffe and in the course of remarks meant to rebut criticism of your grasp of foreign policy, a geography gaffe causes a collective shudder among undecideds even as Huckabee's base absorbs the news about his speaking fees from stem cell research advocates.
Even if Huck hangs on in Iowa, it will be tough to take his Huckmentum west to New Hampshire, south to Michigan and north to South Carolina.