I was going to leave this in headlines but our commenters demanded a proper forum for thorough Huck pummeling. And so it came to be.

It’s a testament to his own immense personal charm and aggressive blog outreach effort that I feel guilty piling on Huck so much this week.

I’ll have to live with it.

Huckabee has exploited Romney’s Mormonism with an egregious subtlety. Huckabee is running a very effective ad in Iowa about religion. “Faith doesn’t just influence me,” he says on camera, “it really defines me.” The ad then hails him as a “Christian leader.”

Forget the implications of the idea that being a “Christian leader” is some special qualification for the presidency of a country whose Constitution (Article VI) explicitly rejects any religious test for office. Just imagine that Huckabee were running one-on-one in Iowa against Joe Lieberman. (It’s a thought experiment. Stay with me.) If he had run the same ad in those circumstances, it would have raised an outcry. The subtext — who’s the Christian in this race? — would have been too obvious to ignore, the appeal to bigotry too clear…

Huckabee has been asked about this view that Mormonism is a cult. He dodges and dances. “If I’m invited to be the president of a theological school, that’ll be a perfectly appropriate question,” he says, “but to be the president of the United States, I don’t know that that’s going to be the most important issue that I’ll be facing when I’m sworn in.”…

[B]y Huckabee’s own logic, since he is not running for head of a theological college, what is he doing proclaiming himself a “Christian leader” in an ad promoting himself for president? Answer: Having the issue every which way. Seeming to take the high road of tolerance by refusing to declare Mormonism a cult, indeed declaring himself above the issue — yet clearly playing to that prejudice by leaving the question ambiguous, while making sure everyone knows that he, for one, is a “Christian leader.”

Barnett made the same point last week. As for Mitt’s objectively great effort to counter Huck’s pandering, the Globe, and the Journal report mixed reviews from evangelicals this morning, although those who didn’t like it should, needless to say, be regarded as analysts not to be trusted.

Exit question one, per Slublog’s comment in the headlines item: Is this issue starting to break Mitt’s way? Note the quote from the pastor in the Journal piece about which candidate is “saved” and which isn’t. And note this headline, which drives home just how warm and fuzzy the press Huckabee’s getting is. And exit question two: Huck’s made bigger mistakes than the Wayne Dumond parole?