Mike Huckabee has a series of events scheduled for today. Since it was about 15 degrees and I needed to catch up on sleep, I didn’t make it up for his 7:15 a.m. run here in Des Moines. But, I did make it to a noontime press event at the downtown Marriott, the city’s largest hotel, where the Governor planned to unveil his closing television ad for the caucus campaign. But, things didn’t work out that way, as he announced he wasn’t going to run the negative ad, after showing it to about 75 national reporters.
With Janet Huckabee standing behind him, Mike Huckabee came into the room and announced that an attack ad on Mitt Romney that his campaign had spent $30,000 producing and was scheduled to begin running at noon throughout Iowa would be pulled down. Huckabee claimed that only minutes before the press conference, he made a personal decision to pull the ad down to change the discourse in American politics. Thus, this was a “different kind of press conference that he originally planned.” Huckabee noted an awareness that the Romney attacks via mail and television were “starting to do damage.” And, thus radio and television attack ads were prepared. Huckabee said that conventional wisdom was that if attacked one should attack back with more venom. But, placing the decision in religious context, Huckabee said: “If you gain the whole world but you lost your soul, is it worth it?”
The potential cynicism in the national press about holding a press conference to show the ad anyway was recognized by Huckabee. But, he claimed that if the press conference had been held and no ad shown that the press would have been dubious whether the ad had ever been produced. Showing its challenges, the Huckabee folks had difficulty getting the sound to work on the ad. [One Nixon era reporter wagged: “He’s going for the Silent Majority vote.”] But, the ad was then run once. Placards in the room supporting the ad’s facts were not removed and one wonders if a soundless ad wouldn’t, indeed, proven that the ad existed but did not move it into the realm of public discourse. Huckabee then took about 25 questions from reporters. Along the way, Huckabee didn’t rule out the use of attack ads in the future, but said that he needed to stay positive if he were to make the point that he could really change Washington. [In this regard, there are odd parallels between the Obama and Huckabee campaigns rhetorically. And, indeed, one reporter last evening meeting a fascinating voter who was undecided between the two very different men.] Huckabee also was not asked whether he denounced his attack ads of the past. One remembers his ad showing an actress dressed as Jimmie Lou Fisher “mudding” on a four-wheeler in the 2002 campaign.