Huckabee Fights Back Against Romney

Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) addresses recent attack ads by Mitt Romney, calling them "incredibly desperate, and frankly dishonest." Video by Ed O'Keefe/
By Perry Bacon Jr. and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 30, 2007

DES MOINES, Dec. 29 -- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee launched an aggressive series of attacks against Mitt Romney on Saturday, signaling a forceful new offensive designed to blunt the former Massachusetts governor's critiques of Huckabee's record.

"I think he's being dishonest about my record and John McCain's," Huckabee told reporters at a news conference in Indianola. "If you get a job by being dishonest to get it, how can you be trusted to be honest once you're in that job?"

Romney's campaign is airing negative ads about Huckabee in Iowa, including one stating that as Arkansas governor, Huckabee pardoned 12 murderers, which overstates the correct number by one. A flyer mailed to GOP voters last week shows a "Get Out of Jail Free" card from the game Monopoly with the headline: "What do we really know about Mike Huckabee and his record on law and order?"

Romney is also using TV commercials and mailings in New Hampshire to blast McCain on immigration and taxes.

In the past week, Huckabee had largely been referring to "my opponent," but in speeches on Friday and Saturday, he repeatedly used Romney's name, slamming him as a recent pro-life convert, for raising fees by more than $500 million as governor of Massachusetts and for giving inaccurate statements about an endorsement from the National Rifle Association that he never received.

"I know that Mr. Romney has said that he was pro-life, but that's a new position for him," Huckabee told a crowd in Ottumwa on Friday. "Mitt doesn't have anything to stand on except to stand against," Huckabee said at Boyt Harness Co., a hunting accessories business in Osceola.

Romney largely ignored the intensifying battles with his rivals Saturday, refusing to face reporters and taking no questions from audience members as he skipped across southeast Iowa.

Listening to Romney at a succession of coffee shops packed with supporters, there was little indication of the nasty back and forth. Instead, he offered a cheery, positive final pitch as he attempted to regain the lead and the momentum he once had in the state.

He thanked supporters for braving the chilly weather, grew serious talking about a soldier's casket returning from the Iraq war and joked about his son's decision to visit all 99 Iowa counties.

"He likes to say that he saw the largest frying pan in the world, he saw the largest bull in the world, of course he saw the field of dreams, the largest truck stop," Romney said, ticking off some Iowa tourist attractions. "I have to tell you, our family and I love Iowa and love the people of Iowa."

In other outlets, however, his campaign continued its two-state war against Huckabee in Iowa and McCain in New Hampshire. The Romney campaign launched a new ad against McCain, and his aides e-mailed reporters about gaffes Huckabee made while discussing the crisis in Pakistan.

Huckabee said the attacks on McCain helped make up his mind that he would take on Romney directly, but he said he also worried that Romney's criticisms might influence voters.

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