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Meltdown in Iowa: Huckabee Publicly Attacks Negative Campaigning With Negative Ad

Huckabee was forced to abruptly end his press conference as the questioning of his motives by an amused press corps only seemed to build.
UPDATE: Video from this press conference available here

Des Moines, Iowa - 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's unorthodox media event comes as a barrage of new polls has battered his lead in Iowa and put his campaign at risk of crash-and-burn. Some of those surveys now show Romney regaining a lead he had maintained over most of the year until Huckabee began to surge ahead in recent weeks.

"Conventional political wisdom is that you must counter-punch," the former Arkansas governor said. "When you get hit you should hit back. And every bit of advice I have been given says that is exactly what we should do." Huckabee explained that he, indeed, prepared and produced a TV spot attacking Romney, sent it to local TV stations but had just given the directive to pull it from airing. "This morning I ordered them to hold the ads," Huckabee said. "From now we will run only ads that say why I should be president not why Mitt Romney shouldn't be president."

Then, amid loud gasps and laughter from the more than 150 reporters on hand, Huckabee announced he would show the assembled press the same ad. As dozens of TV cameras whirred, and after two false starts, the 30-second spot assaulting Romney's record was shown in full. The tag line of the spot ended with the narrator saying of Romney: "If a man's dishonest trying to get the job, he'll be dishonest on the job"

The room then exploded into a cacophony of questioning from the press memorializing this event as a moment that might be remembered as campaign meltdown for Huckabee.
Marc Cooper has covered international and domestic politics for the last three decades. His articles and essays have appeared in dozens of publications ranging from The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Playboy to Rolling Stone, the L.A. Times and the Village Voice.
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