Ed Rollins takes the blame for Huckabee's attack ad on Romney; Update: Huck now thinks he "probably" shouldn't have shown the ad; Update: Cancellation cost Huck $150K?

This comes courtesy of an e-mailer who thinks that with all of our negative coverage of Huck — criticizing his religious demagoguery, knocking him for his left-ish positions on immigration and foreign policy and taxes, pointing out how he frequently seems not to know what he’s talking about, etc — we owe it to our readers to tell them that the Attack Ad That Wasn’t seems to have been not so much a stunt as a genuine strategic disagreement between Huck and campaign manager Rollins. The fact that they actually spent money on an ad buy before canceling it does point in that direction, although if they hadn’t spent it, there’d have been no reason for the dramatic, headline-grabbing presser, would there? They simply would have canceled it and the spot would have ended up on their shelf, like McCain’s own recently unveiled attack ad on Romney.

The 30-second commercial was filmed in one day and shipped to stations across Iowa. Rollins loved the ad for the way Huckabee lashed out at Romney’s own record on gun control and abortion.

Then came Huckabee’s morning run on Monday back in Des Moines. His head cleared from exercise and prayer, he told Rollins and others he’d changed his mind about the whole thing. He wanted it stopped…

Rollins says it had been his idea to show the ad to reporters, the logic being that it was already in the hands of television stations. As for the gathering, Rollins says, “Now would I have loved to cancel the press conference? You betcha. Would I have loved to pull the signs down? Yes. But this decision was made about 11, 11:10 in the morning.” The news conference was scheduled for noon…

“I admire the fact he’s trying to change the environment,” Rollins says. “What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn’t get in the way of my thought process.”

Remember, this wasn’t something that was farmed out to Huck’s video team to stitch together from photos and graphics. He appears in the ad himself. At no time before or after sitting down in front of a camera to call Mitt Romney dishonest did he have second thoughts until an hour before the presser to unveil the ad? Really?

Romney’s team evidently thinks his misgivings had less to do with regrets about nastiness than the very fact that he did appear personally in the spot and thereby left his “fingerprints on the gun.” I find it hard to believe he’d have showed the ad to the media if that were true, but so it goes.

Update: Fancy that, another change of heart: “Probably if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have shown it. And you would have said ‘Aww, show it, you don’t really have one,’ and then you would’ve beaten me up for not showing it…”

Update: The expense of it all is the best evidence that Huck is on the level and Politico says there’s even more expense than we thought here — $150,000 for the ad, a related radio spot, and mailings. Even so, Geraghty’s looking at the timeline and something doesn’t add up. If Huck changed his mind an hour before the presser, why were TV stations told to cancel the ad an hour before that?

Update: Says Chuck Norris of Team Romney, “I’d just like to choke those guys out.” And if you’re looking for still more reasons to worry about Huck, polls indicate that he’d make the waters nice and warm for Bloomberg.