Monday, December 31, 2007

AP writer not too thrilled by Huckabee's flip-flop press conference


Mike Huckabee may have finally gone too far.

After running an unconventional, surprisingly strong and sometimes strange race to the top tier of the Republican presidential campaign, the former Arkansas governor topped himself Monday with a campaign stunt that smacked of hypocrisy.

He called a news conference to unveil a negative ad that he had just withdrawn from Iowa television stations because, he told a room full of journalists recording the ad, he had a sudden aversion to negative politics. Quite a convenient epiphany.

"If people want to be cynical about it," Huckabee said, "they can be cynical about it."

If he loses Iowa's caucuses, New Year's Eve will forever mark the day Huckabee blew it — the day a crowd stopped laughing with the witty Republican and laughed at him.


Huckabee is an immensely talented communicator and successful former governor who is nonetheless a flawed candidate.

• He is mistake prone, particularly when it comes to commenting about foreign policy.

• He can be thin-skinned and rash. Two of his advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said privately Monday that the production of the ad was fueled by Huckabee's white-hot anger with Romney, and that his change of mind was jarring to the campaign staff.

• He has a paltry political organization in a state that values the ground game, according to an informal survey of GOP county chairs and co-chairs. "I haven't seen much of a sign of him or his people," said Jim Conklin, chairman of the Linn County GOP.

He can also be disarmingly honest. Asked whether Romney should stop running negative ads, Huckabee said, "I'm not going to try to run his campaign."

"I'm having enough trouble running mine."
So, did Huckabee waste $30,000 and valuable campaign time and squander the good will of the press because he was ticked off at Romney?

Here's Fox News' take

And then there's this:
And Monday’s press conference will get him free airtime on every major cable channel, local affiliate and print outlet, as reporters analyze the surprising turn of events. Moneywise, the spot cost only $30,000 to produce, but it will play bigger dividends through repeated references in the press.

But the ad could certainly cost the campaign in other ways, as the abrupt reversal will inevitably raise questions about Huckabee’s leadership style and campaign organization, as well as about how it might affect his ground game on caucus night.

Even more significantly, the unusual political twist -- already labeled “bizarre” by some reporters -- forces the press to evaluate his sincerity. The speculation could prove particularly harmful for Huckabee, who has based his campaign largely on a message of authenticity.

As he’s fond of saying on the stump: “If I don’t tell you the truth about how I applied for the job, I probably won’t tell you the truth when I get the job.”

Now the press is left wondering if Huckabee’s “truth” is really just some savvy political maneuvering.

The latest polling shows Huckabee in a statistical dead heat with Romney, a drop from his five-point lead last week.

He also trails in the money race. On a conference call last Friday, Huckabee told reporters that he had about $2 million cash on hand. He’s raised just over $2 million for the entire election cycle through Sept. 31, a fraction of Romney’s $62.8 million total.