Romney Hits Huckabee on Crime
By Howard Kurtz
The Ad: Two pro-life governors. Both support a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. The difference? Romney got tough on drugs like meth. He never pardoned a single criminal. And Mike Huckabee? He granted 1,033 pardons and commutations, including 12 convicted murderers. Huckabee granted more clemencies than the previous three governors combined. Even reduced penalties for manufacturing methamphetamine. On crime, the difference is judgment.
Analysis: This is the second ad in which Mitt Romney has assailed Mike Huckabee by name--cushioning a negative attack by beginning with positive words that take none of the sting out of what follows.
The claim that Romney "got tough" on drugs like methamphetamine is undermined by the fact that the legislation he proposed as Massachusetts governor did not pass. Huckabee did support and sign into law a bill reducing sentences for those seeking to manufacture meth in an effort to ease prison overcrowding. Federal authorities cited a rising number of meth labs in Arkansas. The average meth sentence in Arkansas was nine years before the legal change; the Huckabee campaign says Romney would have boosted his state's penalty to a maximum of five years.
Huckabee did grant the pardons and commutations cited--twice as many as his three predecessors combined--and backed a notorious parole for a rapist who went on to murder another woman. He rejected 78 percent of the pardon and commutation applications he received. His campaign says that Arkansas governors face an unusually high number of requests because every convict is eligible for clemency. Romney received just 272 requests.
An earlier commercial began with the "two governors" formulation and ripped Huckabee for backing tuition breaks and scholarships for some children of illegal aliens.
As the only candidate who has used his advertising to attack a party rival by name, Romney is obviously trying to halt Huckabee's recent surge in Iowa. The challenge for Huckabee's shoestring campaign, which has run few commercials, will be to respond effectively to a candidate capable of sustaining a multimillion-dollar television blitz.
Posted at 6:10 PM ET on Dec 17, 2007
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