There's been quite a bit of buzz today about Huckabee unveiling an important, hard-hitting ad at an Iowa press conference, which ostensibly would curtail Mitt Romney's momentum in the closing days before the caucuses.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the smackdown. Marc Cooper reports from Des Moines:
In what is likely to be remembered as one of the more bizarre moments of this campaign season, embattled GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee renounced negative campaigning today by unveiling an attack ad to a ballroom full of reporters and dozens of TV cameras.Standing before a banner reading "Enough is Enough" and flanked by five large charts attacking the record of rival Mitt Romney, a haggard-looking Huckabee said that the fight to win Thursday's Republican caucus had gotten "out of hand" and "out of control" and that he would refrain from any more negative campaigning.
Huckabee told the assembled crowd of reporters, which I've been told was pretty big, that he and his campaign had already finished the attack ad, sent it local TV stations, and announced the press conference to unveil it ... and then Huckabee had an epiphany. "From now we will run only ads that say why I should be president not why Mitt Romney shouldn't be president," he said.
At which point, Huckabee showed the reporters the attack ad anyway, prompting what Cooper said was "loud gasps and laughter from the more than 150 reporters on hand."
Marc Ambinder noted that Huckabee is presumably "hoping that gullible news executives will run the ad that Huckabee is too much of a saint for not airing -- for free." Of course, given the reported laughter in the room, that seems unlikely.
We've all seen some very cheap stunts over the years, but they're not usually this cheap and not this transparent. Reporters covering the campaign aren't idiots, and Huckabee just insulted their intelligence.
Joe Klein concluded, "That sound you hear rumbling out of Des Moines appears to be a monumental implosion."