PELLA, Iowa — With the roads slick and covered in snow this Friday, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson held competing events here this morning, a few blocks from one another along Main St. I caught up with Huckabee at Pizza Ranch, where he spoke to a packed room and people in the back stood on chairs to try and get a glimpse of the Iowa frontrunner over the standing crowd and cameras.
Huckabee’s speech was more about appealing to Iowans as if he were one of them than it was about advocating specific policies. Other than a throwaway line about instability in Pakistan, there was scant mention of foreign policy, while the domestic policy discussion involved a brief mention of the fair tax and the need to secure the borders.
Instead, much of the speech tried to connect the type of values one would find in a small town in Arkansas with Pella–a neighborhood where Huckabee said “Ozzie and Harriet could have lived” and “going to church is not an oddity.” Noting the children in the audience, he said that when he was governor, everything he did had in mind a 7 year old living in Dermott, Arkansas–an impoverished part of the state. That’s what motivated him to expand access to health care for children as well as improve roads and schools. He referred back to the 7 year old throughout the speech.
Huckabee also took aim at his top rival in Iowa, though he did not mention Mitt Romney by name. Huckabee said he is pro-life as a matter of personal conviction, and he did not become that way because he was running for president. He noted that he has been outspent 20 to 1 and that his rival was spending “10 gizallion dollars” on negative ads, but the election, he said, “should not be about who raises money, but who raises hope.” Responding to some of the charges in the ads, he said that he cut taxes 94 times, that meth penalties were 4 times harsher in his state than Massachusetts, and that he allowed 16 people to be executed (thus he is not soft on crime).
In the wake of the events in Pakistan, Romney flak Hugh Hewitt took aim at his man’s New Hampshire rival on his radio show:
What do you make of the idea that foreign crisis elevates John McCain’s rather sad record of legislative screw-ups because he’s traveled the globe?
So in other words, we’re supposed to believe that McCain’s rock solid record on national security–which included advocating more troops in Iraq years before the strategy was pursued with success–is invalidated because of the “Gang of 14” compromise and campaign finance reform. And yet, Hewitt’s choice to lead the free world is somebody with no foreign policy experience–a management consultant turned venture capitalist, turned one-term governor.
If Hewitt is going to argue that he’d rather have a president and commander in chief who has executive experience, or that McCain’s national security bona fides don’t make up for his faults in other areas, that’s one thing. But to insult McCain’s foreign policy credentials because you disagree with his vote against the Bush tax cuts is just plain silly. And I don’t think it’s a wise tactic for Romney surrogates to employ (and let’s face it, that’s basically what Hewitt is at this point, and he gets paid in book royalties).
The Jerusalem Post notes that the rate of aliya–or Jewish immigration to Israel–has dropped to a 20-year low. One official laments:
“We should do everything we can to increase the rate of aliya,” [Minister of Immigration Absorption Ya’acov] Edri said. “The ministry intends to invest great resources to that end in the coming years. Aliya is the single greatest Zionist enterprise in our sixty years of statehood.”
Unfortunately, doing something about the problem often translates into demands for more government handouts to those who make aliya, when the actual solution would be to get the government off people’s backs by lowering Israel’s excessive tax burden. In Israel, Tax Freedom Day didn’t come until August 2 this year, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, meaning that Israelis have to work 214 days to fund the government before they can keep the money they earn. In the U.S., that date is April 30, according to the Tax Foundation. So, an American Jew thinking about moving to Israel faces the prospect of working three more months for the government. Is there any wonder why the nation is having trouble attracting more immigrants?
Leaving no early state stone unturned, Romney has launched a new TV ad specifically addressing Michigan’s economic problems. If Romney loses in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll need a win in his birth state to rescue his campaign. If he wins in Iowa or New Hampshire, a win in Michigan could make him unbeatable heading into South Carolina and beyond.
Seems to have Hugh Hewitt in a state of panic.
Matt Lewis writes:
Romney critics are making hay out of Mitt Romney’s statement that he “saw” his father march with MLK (of course, he did not literally see him march with King).
Unlike Al Gore and the Clintons, there has not been a significant pattern of Romney exaggerating his personal history or family background.
I’m willing to accept the fact that Romney was speaking figuratively …
Yeah, I mean, Romney never claimed to be a lifelong hunter or anything.
Dave Freddoso is right–the video of Romney’s explanation is even worse. This guy really is “Bill Clinton with his pants up.” How stupid does he think people are?
I’m sure he’s thinking, a la Godfather II, “I hope they will have the decency to clear my name with the same publicity with which they have now besmirched it.”
Giuliani’s long-time nemesis, the NY Times, reviews city records and concludes that it is “not likely” that as mayor he tried to hide his visits to Judith Nathan by billing them to obscure government agencies, as implied by last month’s Politico story that rocked his campaign.
UPDATE: Another thought. Could Rudy actually find a way to turn this story to his advantage? The new narrative could be that the media try to take down a Republican candidate, the NY Times exonerates him weeks later, after the damage has been done, but buries the story on A35?
The latest Fox poll has the race a three-way toss-up nationally among Giuliani, Huckabee and McCain.