So cynical is this move that, according to Politico, the press in the room actually started laughing when he pulled it. He called a presser to unveil an attack ad on Romney, then decided at the last minute that he’s too Christian a leader to attack another candidate — and then showed the ad to reporters anyway, knowing of course that it’d be the talk of political news coverage tonight and tomorrow. It’s his entire cynical faux nice guy style of politics in microcosm — the man who’s so innocent and virtuous that he doesn’t even recognize the Machiavellian gambits he somehow keeps stumbling into.
Mr. Huckabee, with his wife standing silently off to the side, said that the “conventional wisdom” was that when you are attacked, you attack back. But, he said, an hour before the press conference, which was scheduled for noon, he just decided not to go that route.
“It’s not worth it,” he said.
Polls regularly show that Iowa voters do not reward candidates who go negative, and perhaps Mr. Huckabee saw some of those polls. “The people of Iowa deserve better,” he said.
Asked if he wasn’t being hypocritical by showing the ad to a roomful of cameras that are likely to record it and show it — for free — around the country, Mr. Huckabee said he was showing it to reporters only because reporters were so cynical that if he didn’t show it, they would not believe that he really had made such an ad.
Mark Halperin was in the room and recorded it, so the viral copies are already starting to spread. Click the image to watch. If you can’t make out the audio, NBC has a transcript. If there’s any justice the media will tear him to pieces for this, if only for treating them like they’re stupid.
Huckabee acknowledged that his decision not to run counter ads to Romney’s is “a huge gamble,” and he conceded that Romney’s ads targeting him had hurt him.
But, he said, “if you gain the whole world and lose your soul, what does it profit you?”
Update (Bryan): Fox’s Carl Cameron was at the Huckabee presser. He’s calling it “stunning” and a “classic Iowa caucus moment.”
Joe Klein was also there and gets in the obligatory reference to the Swiftboat ad on the way to declaring this move a “Huckabust.”
Update (Bryan): IowaPoliticsDotCom has posted a 10-minute clip of the Huckabee presser. The audio is low, and the “too hot for Iowa TV” ad comes in at about 4:27 in. The press gets its belly laughs in at about 3:55. If you go by the comments at YouTube, which is always a dubious proposition, the press conference didn’t fool anyone.
The “lose your own soul” line comes in at about 7:45, after several glitches get taken care of the ad finally plays.