updated 12/12/2007 4:29:19 PM ET 2007-12-12T21:29:19

It's a good thing Mike Huckabee has a movie star's face. This week, the Republican presidential hopeful who's taking reporters, pollsters and, apparently, voters by storm plays the starring role in no less than four TV ads in Iowa. But he's not always cast as the hero.

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Huckabee, who currently leads in Iowa and ties Rudy Giulianif or first place in national primary polling, launched two more campaign ads in the Hawkeye State this week, spreading messages of hope and toughness as the GOP candidates prepare to meet for their final debate there today. In one spot, which is also airing in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Huckabee speaks passionately about family and the need to secure "a better America" for future generations. The message must be one that resonates with Iowa voters, considering it's nearly identical to recent campaign ads running there from Democratic candidate John Edwards.

But it's Huckabee's second spot that should capture the attention of campaign-watchers, as it addresses the issue that has driven the sharpest wedge between the candidates on the GOP side -- immigration. In the ad, which debuted Monday, Huckabee explains his plan to secure the border (other than deploying Chuck Norris) with a fence and more border patrol agents, and he hits the requisite conservative buzzwords on the issue ("amnesty" and "sanctuary cities").

The spot was quickly followed up by an attack ad from Mitt Romney, Huckabee's closest competitor in Iowa, who sought to counter Huckabee's momentum in that state by contrasting the two former governors' records on illegal immigration. But that plan was undercut somewhat by the simultaneous announcement Tuesday that Jim Gilchrist, founder of high-profile border security and anti-illegal immigration group the Minutemen, was endorsing Huckabee.

Still, Romney's not the only one who has it out for Huckabee. The political arm of the Club for Growth launched a nationwide ad campaign this week blasting Huckabee's record on taxes and calling on conservatives to "be united" on that issue. The CFG has been leading the charge of fiscal conservatives who balk at Huckabee's record on taxes and spending as Arkansas governor, and the group has not shied away from aggressively campaigning against Republicans it deems fiscally irresponsible in the past. In a release, said it expected to "dramatically increase" the anti-Huckabee buy "in the near future." Rate candidates' positions

Huckabee has already been questioned about the video featured in the CFG ad, which shows the then-governor professing his support for a number of proposed taxes to alleviate budget troubles in the Arkansas Legislature. Now that he's a legitimate top-tier contender, at least as far as the polls are concerned, he can expect more questions on that and other controversialaspects of his record as the Iowa campaign draws to a close.

See The Gate for liveblog coverage of the Des Moines Register GOP debate starting at 2 p.m. EST today.

Don't forget New Hampshire
With the final debates coming up this week and the Jan. 3 caucuses fast approaching, most of the presidential candidates are focusing their attention solely on Iowa. But for two GOP contenders trying to court the independent vote, it's all about New Hampshire.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul both stepped up their advertising efforts in the Granite State this week. Following the recent trend of turning up the star power, McCain launched a new TV ad in New Hampshire featuring an endorsement from Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who also campaigned for McCain last weekend.

Meanwhile, Paul, the libertarian candidate who is banking on the quirky free spirit of New England to carry him to a surprise Granite State victory, now has two new radio spots and a TV ad on the air in New Hampshire. The policy-heavy spots coincide with the launch of the Ron Paul blimp along the East Coast, a somewhat controversial plan by the candidate's eccentric band of supporters to increase his name recognition.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.


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