[Guest post by DRJ]
Mike Huckabee is getting lots of media attention and scrutiny in Iowa, and that’s not surprising for a front-runner in an early primary state. However, some of that attention is not very flattering, such as this Politico article that paints Huckabee as a showman up to classic tricks:
“Mike Huckabee’s move to not run ads hitting back at Mitt Romney is a risky move that could rejuvenate his fading campaign — or ensure his defeat on Thursday.
That Huckabee still showed the spot to dozens of reporters jammed into a press conference will ensure the most skeptical, bordering on cynical, coverage on every national news broadcast tonight and in all the major national papers tomorrow. After it became clear that he was not going to air the ad on Iowa television, but would still preview it here, the press corps offered a collective laugh in plain recognition of what Huckabee was up to. But what the snickering big feet here say tonight or write about tomorrow is not as important as how it will be described by the local journalists who were here.
How do the local TV affilates here describe the move? What will the AP story that dozens of papers here pick up tomorrow read like? And what sort of presentation and play will The Des Moines Register give to what can only be described as a singular moment in an already topsy-turvy campaign?
More than being a preacher and pol, Huck is a showman first. And today he was in his element on center stage. He’s risen to this point almost entirely by virture of his unparalled communications skills. Those were put to the test today under a withering line of questions.”
So far, the Des Moines Register has treated this as a straight news story, without commentary, noting that Huckabee showed the ad to reporters but decided not to run the ad state-wide about an hour before the news conference:
“Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee cancelled an attack advertisement today that his campaign had planned to air against his competitor, Mitt Romney. However, he showed the television advertisement to a room packed with members of the media in a room at the Marriott hotel in downtown Des Moines.
In the ad, Huckabee criticized Mitt Romney’s “dishonest attacks” even against “an American hero, John McCain.”
Huckabee said he decided about an hour before the noon press conference, which was originally planned to unveil the ad, to pull it. “At some point we have to decide, can we change the kind of politics and the level of discourse?” he said. “I‘d like to believe we can, and it’s got to start somewhere, and it might as well start here, and it might as well start with me.”
This story isn’t up yet at the Quad-City Times but the Times did have two other interesting Huckabee soundbites:
“Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee defended his failure to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in early December, joking in an interview Monday that President Bush didn’t read intelligence reports for four years.
Huckabee came under fire in early December when, in response to a reporter’s question about the Iran report, Huckabee said he wasn’t aware of it. Huckabee’s lack of familiarity with the National Intelligence Estimate — a report that showed Iran had discontinued its nuclear program — provided fuel for his critics who said he was a lightweight on foreign policy.
“The whole perception was based on an ambush question on the NIE report,” Huckabee said in an interview Monday with the Quad-City Times. “From there, it was like, ‘Wow.’ That was released at 10 o’clock in the morning. At 5:30 in the afternoon, somebody says, ‘Have you read the report?’ Maybe I should’ve said, ‘Have you read the report?’ President Bush didn’t read it for four years; I don’t know why I should read it in four hours.”
There was also this excerpt about the purpose of punishment in criminal law cases:
“Just as he was hitting the trail, a man who manages a halfway house asked Huckabee about prisoner rehabilitation. “One of the reasons I get into a whole lot of trouble is because I do believe that you don’t just keep punishing people forever,” responded Huckabee, whose record on pardons has been criticized by some of his rivals.
Huckabee said the reason to punish should be to correct. “We lock up a lot of people that we’re mad at, not the ones we’re really afraid of,” he said. “And we ought to lock up the ones we’re afraid of, but the ones we’re just mad at we might find better ways” of correction.
The man told Huckabee: “If you’re going to continue on that path, you’ve got my vote. Huckabee said he was glad to hear it, “cause I would have hated to give that answer in front of all these cameras and lose your vote.”
That’s a sad commentary on the American justice system — that we lock up people we’re mad at — but it illustrates how well Huckabee uses simple soundbites to communicate. Reading Huckabee’s quotes makes him sound entertaining and likeable, similar to Bill Clinton. He’s a great salesman … but I’m not buying.
UPDATE: Here’s more from the New York Times’ Politics Blog on Huckabee’s “Enough is Enough” news conference.