Huckabee Won’t Run Negative Ads – Like This One!

The leeward and winward sides of the blogosphere are united in excoriating Mike Huckabee for a press conference in which he denounced negative ads — by playing a negative ad against Mitt Romney which he claims he decided not to run because he is so staunchly against negative ads!

Katharine Q. Seelye broke the story for the NYT.

Talk about political jujitsu!

Mike Huckabee is holding a press conference right now in which he was supposed to unveil a new negative ad against arch rival Mitt Romney.

But Mr. Huckabee came to the press conference and announced he’d had a change of heart and would not be broadcasting the ad after all.

But wait! It gets better.

He then broadcast it for a room crammed with reporters, photographers and television cameras.

The assembled media found the display hilarious and at several points laughed out loud.

The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin adds:

But Huckabee still aired the ad he cut yesterday in which he criticized Romney on fiscal matters, gun control, law and order, and abortion. Additionally, Huckabee spoke surrounded by five placards on easels leveling the same attacks in print on Romney.

Asked to explain the pledge to stay positive with his decision to still show the ad and display the oppo, Huckabee said his staff hadn’t known of his decision until minutes before the event and that he only showed the negative spot to prove that he had actually cut one and had made this decision.

It’s the sort of gambit that will instantly trigger cynicism among the political class, especially given the confusion that surrounded the move.

Here’s a “bootleg copy” of the video, via You Decide 2008:

Marc Ambinder isn’t buying the spin.

But — what the heck — Huckabee decides to play the ad he won’t broadcast for the media at the press conference, presumably hoping that gullible news executives will run the ad that Huckabee is too much of a saint for not airing — for free.

Jane Hamsher concurs:

It raises the question — does Huckabee not have enough money to run the ad? Is this a cheap way to get the message out there, and still make a claim to have (*ahem*) clean hands? And while it seems like a good idea right now, if Huckabee does take Iowa, the attacks will start coming from more than just Romney. How many cheeks does Huckabee have?

It should be interesting to see if the beltway press gets played by this, and more interestingly, whether Iowans will actually see this as a sincere effort or a cheap political stunt.

Bruce McQuain calls it “height of gall.” Dan Reihl thinks it “too clever by half.”

Sean Hackbarth — who works for the Thompson campaign (and beat me by a measly two points for the league championship in the Blogger Fantasy Football League yesterday) — calls it “a bizarre moment” that reminds him “of Edmund Muskie in the 1972 Presidential race.”

Todd Beeton thinks the move is calculated but gives the Huckster some credit.

This election cycle, in an attempt to negotiate the pesky complexities of how voters respond to negative ads — on one hand, they’re widely considered to be effective, on the other, they can also backfire on the candidate who goes negative — some of the candidates, particularly on the Republican side, have employed some innovative methods to attack their opponents without appearing to do so.

There’s, of course, a completely innocent explanation: Huckabee’s an idiot. More likely, though, he thinks we’re idiots.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. safariman says:

    It really doesn’t matter what the reporters and pundits think. Mike re-energized his base. remember it is not who CAN vote in Iowa…its who shows up to vote.

  2. Rob M says:

    Actually made me think of James Carville in running a Pennsylvania governors race in 1986 where he came out and kind of blasted his boss for refusing to run a negative ad stating the other guy was a weed smoker.

    Worked great for James. the Headlines were “Casey wont call other a pot smoker”