Mike Huckabee’s campaign today took a turn from the unconventional to the bizarre. At a noon press conference at the downtown Des Moines Marriott, Mike Huckabee rolled out his new “Enough is Enough” television response ad by announcing that he was not running the ad and had told stations to pull it.

Huckabee said the original plan for the press conference was to run the two Mitt Romney “Judgment” negative ads against him and the show his “counterpunch” response. “Hopefully this is an ad you will not see in Iowa,” Huckabee said. The original plan for the press conference, he said, was to show the two Romney “Judgment” attack ads and then show their ad. But about an hour before, he decided to call networks and ask them to pull it.

Actually, in a moment of cynicism rarely so transparent, Huckabee did show the ad, which the media then obligingly audio- and videotaped. The campaign also had podium backdrop banner emphasing Huckabee’s “Enough is Enough” slogan, plus five big poster boards attacking Romney’s claims on a policy issues, from taxes and crime.

Huckabee said that if Iowans are going to make a decision about his candidacy based on a 30-second attack ads against him, “there’s not a lot I can do to change that.” When I asked him if in fact they thought the Romney ads were had in fact damaged him, he said: “I think we had to believe that they were hurting us. Obviously you don’t counterpunch if you don’t think it’s doing damage to you. So yes, it hurt me.”

After pointing out that Romney has outspent him “20 to 1” in Iowa and should therefore be beating him by a wide margin, Huckabee conceded it might be a mistake not to go negative in response. “The point is that I’m taking a risk here. I know that. If this decision makes it so [Romney] pulls away in a dramatic way, then I’ll be the last guy ever to do this. But I wanted to be the first to try.”

Frankly, the whole event had a certain “moment the campaign tanked” feel to it. I don’t think people are buying it. The move to pull it before it runs yet release it looks like either an attempt to what might have been a backfiring ad, or an attempt to get a lot of free media for that ad he otherwise would not have had the money or time to execute properly. Whatever the case, Huckabee looked decidedly amateurish.

--Tom Schaller

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