The gloves are off, and the GOP candidates who trumpet the most about their conservative Christian values are going after each other.
“The negatives feel good,” says Ed Rollins, the onetime strategist of the Reagan White House and now national campaign chairman for upstart Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
“It’s like being a boxer when you’re young. To me, hitting somebody, knocking somebody down, is a great feeling. Firing out a negative ad just feels amazing.”
Well, in a bizarre press conference, Rollins’ negative ad was yanked after it was screened for journalists on New Year’s Eve.
Huckabee had stunned reporters expecting the launch of a hard-hitting TV ad attacking Mitt Romney; instead, he yankd the spot produced by Rollins.
Huckabee showed the ad he said he wasn’t going to run, leaving reporters scratching their heads in disbelief.
“I just realized that this is not how we run our campaign in this state,” the candidate said. “We’ve gotten here by being positive.” All that was missing was Zuzu’s petals.
Rollins defended his ad, saying Huckabee had a cud full of Romney’s allegations.
“Anybody knows you can’t have millions and millions of dollars spent against you — particularly in Iowa — without it having an impact,” Rollins says. “I just said, ‘I’m going to give you the best counsel I can. We’re sliding back in the polls. We’re still up, but we’ve lost ground and it’s one of those things where people begin to question whether if you don’t respond, ‘Is it true?’ “
The change of heart for Huckabee came after he ran and prayed, and then he told Rollins and others he’d changed his mind about the whole thing. He wanted the ad stopped.
The wheels to distribute the ad were already in motion.
“I told him, ‘As far as I’m concerned, governor, it’s your race. You’ve gotten this far. I’ve only been here two weeks,’ ” Rollins recalls. “But I also told him there’s going to be a definite reaction, a cynicism from the press. You didn’t have 100 reporters and 30 cameras sitting in a room because you’re putting up a commercial. They think they’re here to see Ed Rollins coming back to drop to the knees and fire at the groin of Mitt Romney.”
Rollins reportedly told Huckabee about his take no prisoners style of politics.
“I admire the fact he’s trying to change the environment,” Rollins says. “What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn’t get in the way of my thought process.”
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