Will Huckabee's Stunt Hurt Him? The Iowa Press Says... Probably Not.

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The dean emeritus of the national political press corps, Ron Fournier, has spoken.

Mike Huckabee may have finally gone too far. After running an unconventional, surprisingly strong and sometimes strange race to the top tier of the Republican presidential campaign, the former Arkansas governor topped himself Monday with a campaign stunt that smacked of hypocrisy.

And it's clear: the national press corps thinks Mike Huckabee's decision to show reporters the negative ad that he wasn't going to run before he didn't run it was a stunt. A wag pointed to a melting ice sculpture outside a Huckabee event in Des Moines last night and said: "Meltdown!"

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Being a cynic, a I found Chip Saltzman at the event and rudely asked him whether this is the Howard Dean moment for the campaign. After telling me that he didn't much care what the press writes, he said "We'll know on Friday." He stalked off.

A campaign aide later echoed Saltzman. "If we win, we'll be seen as geniuses. If we lose, it'll be our huge blunder." The aide said that Huckabee alone made the decision and that his staff, at first, had no idea what he was doing.

But the Iowa press is reporting it straight, mostly. And that means that, as much as we national reporters want to hyperventilate, the moment itself probably won't hurt Huckabee too much.

A teaser for the 11pm newscast on WHO went like this: "One less negative campaign on the air.."

KCCI, the high-rated CBS affiliate in Des Moines, reported it the same way: "Huckabee then decided to pull the ad at the latest minute." (And they played parts of the ad!) ...

Also: it's a holiday. The bloviators of national politics (I use the term affectionately) like Chris Matthews are on holiday.

A very smart Republican e-mails:


"Figuring out what motivates Huckabee voters or what the Iowa media's take is like figuring out physics on a planet with giant worms floating in hydrogen-- NONE of the rules apply .... Huck is not a dumb man and he understands media in small states which doesn't want to be told the story line by national media. Coupled with the holiday tomorrow I think the event is a wash at most.... "

We'll see what the newspapers do.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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