Mike Huckabee wants to have his cake and eat it too—because, after all, that’s what the people of Iowa deserve. The former Arkansas governor held a press conference to unveil the negative ad on Mitt Romney that he claimed he’s too decent to use. This laughably transparent bid to smear his competition (while demanding credit for not doing so) could be the undoing of a candidate whose tenuous popularity was built on charm.
Whatever appeal Huckabee had sprang from a certain unscripted innocence. His fans were drawn to a folksiness missing in all the gloss and hypercalculation of rival campaigns. Then when ultraglossy Mitt Romney shrank Huckabee’s lead, Huck decided to fight fire with fire. But he’s failed, and failed slickness is much worse than no slickness at all.
Now, his plucky one-liners and home-spun pronouncements grate more than ingratiate. And in trying to offer up this stunt as a populist gesture he attains pure parody: “I believe the people of Iowa deserve better, and we are going to try and give them better.”
One analyst said: “Iowans have a reputation for punishing politicians who go negative. The question is whether voters, particularly evangelicals who make up his political base, will believe Huckabee had the political equivalent of a deathbed conversion.”
Conversion? No. Deathbed? Very possibly. In defending his decision to pull the ad, Huckabee said, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” With days to go before the Iowa caucus, it’s doing the wrong thing that you have to look out for.