The Corner

McCain Attacks Romney’s Attack on Huckabee

Here’s an interesting one.  The Romney campaign is set to release the first negative ad of the season in Iowa tomorrow – an attack on Mike Huckabee on the immigration issue.  Huckabee will certainly respond – and now, he has help from another candidate, John McCain.  A few minutes ago, the McCain campaign released a statement from Iowa chairman Dave Roederer denouncing the attack on Huckabee:

News that Mitt Romney will launch a new attack ad tomorrow is another move by a campaign that continues to insult Iowa voters. Iowa families should not be subjected to this negative style of campaigning, especially during the holiday season.

Governor Romney has flip-flopped on several major issues that voters care about. It’s particularly amazing that Governor Romney would attack anyone on immigration when he’s on his third position. John McCain has run an honorable campaign that all Iowans can be proud of. I call on Governor Romney to drop his plans for this negative attack and follow John McCain’s lead. Candidates need to raise the level of the debate, not lower it.

“It’s just the negative style of campaigning that we’re denouncing,” a McCain aide told me a few minutes ago.  Of course, there are other, more strategic, ways to read it, and it’s likely McCain sees an advantage in helping Huckabee beat Romney.

But there might be something personal as well.  When I was riding around in Iowa with McCain in late October, he was pretty effusive about Huckabee.  “I just like the guy,” McCain told me.  “Huckabee and I have stood next to each other in several debates, and we’ve had several conversations.  In one of the earliest debates, there was the issue of evolution versus intelligent design, and Huckabee described it so well that I found myself saying, when they asked me, that this guy just said it far more eloquently than I can.  That kinda had something to do with our relationship.”

Later, I asked McCain about his relationship with Romney.  “I don’t know him well,” McCain told me.  “I don’t know him at all.”  The two men have met on occasions – Romney visited McCain when Romney was rescuing the Olympics and McCain was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee – but McCain didn’t seem to want to say anything about his rival from Massachusetts.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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