Romney Portrays Huckabee as a Bill Clinton Clone

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's almost too easy.

Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton. Two former governors both from the tiny town of Hope, Ark. One, the hottest thing in the Republican presidential race, thanks in large part to his support from social conservatives; the other, a former Democratic president loathed by those same voters.

It's a match made in heaven for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is seeking to slow Huckabee's momentum in the lead-up to Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses.

Romney is hammering Huckabee for his alleged similarities to Clinton (Bill, that is) in a new direct-mail piece that hit the Hawkeye State this past weekend.

"Two Governors from Hope: One was President, One Wants to Be" says the front of the mailer. Inside, voters are offered a series of questions and asked to choose between Huckabee and Clinton.

An example: "Which Governor granted 1,033 pardons and commutations, including 12 sentences for convicted murderers?" Any guesses? Clinton? Wrong. Huckabee.

Let's try another: "Which Governor supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, calling for a special pathway to legalization?" Huckabee again.

And so on.

By linking Huckabee to Clinton, Romney is trying to get the Republican base to think twice about its support for the former Arkansas governor.

The hard truth for Huckabee is that he spent more than a decade as the chief executive of a state where Democrats controlled the legislature. That means compromise -- a dirty word when it comes to winning a party primary.

Perhaps in expectation of these attacks, Huckabee has sought to portray his tendency toward compromise as governor as a sign that he can rise above partisan politics. "We've got Democrats who fight Republicans, liberals fighting conservatives, the left fights the right," Huckabee said in last week's GOP debate in Iowa. "Who's fighting for this country again?"

Service Employees Echo Edwards

A handful of local Service Employees International Union affiliates have banded together to form a third-party advocacy group championing many of the same issues emphasized by former senator John Edwards in his presidential campaign.

The Alliance for a New America's stated goal, according to its Web site, it to "ask the candidates how they will make the middle class and working Americans their top priority in Washington, while ensuring that special interests and corporate America lose their stranglehold on our government."

To that end, the group, which is incorporated under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, will begin running radio ads in Iowa this week featuring a nurse named Beth Junk. "For years, the insurance companies, drug companies and their Washington lobbyists have blocked reform," Junk says in an obvious echo of Edwards's rhetoric on the stump. "It's time someone had a plan to take them on." The ad's narrator goes on to provide details of Edwards's plan.

The ads are being financed by six local branches of SEIU -- two in California, two in Minnesota and one each in Oregon and Ohio. The Chicago branch of United Here is also involved in the effort. Nick Baldick, who managed Edwards's presidential campaign in 2004 but is not involved in his campaign this time around, is serving as an adviser to the group.

To date, the Alliance for a New America has raised nearly $850,000 and spent $590,000 -- all of it on the radio ads. In addition to the radio campaign, the organization is planning a direct-mail program in Iowa and has not ruled out the possibility of television ads as well.

Another pro-Edwards 527 -- Working for Working Families -- launched TV ads in Iowa late last week touting Edwards's call to eliminate tax breaks for companies who move jobs offshore. That group is affiliated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, according to forms filed Friday with the IRS.

Clinton's Outside Help

Speaking of outside spending in Iowa, the trio of independent groups coordinating their efforts on behalf of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have spent nearly $1.7 million over the past month in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and Emily's List are working together to put Clinton over the top in Iowa; AFSCME is largely funding the television campaign, AFT the radio ads and Emily's List the direct-mail and turnout efforts.

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission detailing their activities show the extent of the campaign within a campaign they are running on Clinton's behalf.

AFSCME has spent approximately $700,000 on television ads during that time -- all of which went to Adelstein Liston, a Chicago-based firm handling all of the paid advertising for the effort. AFSCME also paid $24,250 for a poll earlier this month.

AFT has dropped nearly $600,000 on twin radio buys in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, the ads began running Dec. 6 and will run through Jan. 2 -- the day before the Iowa caucuses -- at a cost of $281,000. In New Hampshire, the radio commercials went up Dec. 12 and will stay on the air until the eve of the Granite State's Jan. 8 primary at a slightly higher cost -- $310,000.

Emily's List, a D.C.-based organization dedicated to electing to office more women who support abortion rights, is spending smaller sums on a variety of campaign services. More than $115,000 has gone to the Mack Crounse Group -- a leading direct-mail firm; an additional $26,000 went into Web ads on common search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Lately, Emily's List has been sinking $1,700 or so every few days into phone banks, typically a tool used to identify and turn out likely supporters.

"AFSCME is prepared to do what it takes to help elect Hillary Clinton," said Ricky Feller, associate director of AFSCME's political action department.

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