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Romney Goes Negative in Iowa Ad

DES MOINES -- Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has begun his first negative campaign ad, running a spot in Iowa that accuses the surging Mike Huckabee of supporting in-state tuition and scholarships for illegal immigrants.

The spot begins by comparing Romney and Huckabee favorably, perhaps hoping that some of the Huckabee pixie dust will rub off on Romney: "Two former governors...two good family men...Both pro-life...both support a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage."

But then the spot, first reported by Mark Halperin of Time Magazine, takes a turn.

"The difference? Mitt Romney stood up, and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens...opposed driver's licenses for illegals. Mike Huckabee? Supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded scholarships for illegal aliens."

The ad ends with the phrase: "On immigration, the choice matters."

Romney is suddenly running scared as Huckabee has overtaken him in several polls of Iowa caucus-goers. In addition to the TV spot, Romney's campaign today forwarded an anti-Huckabee article in the National Review to a large number of reporters.

The decision to go negative on television is fraught with peril, according to campaign observers and veterans of past Iowa caucuses. The voters here are particularly sensitive to, and offended by, attack politics. They want a reasoned discussion of the issues.

But Romney may have no choice. His campaign -- which has never been strong in national polls -- is built around the notion that he will win the Iowa caucus and then the New Hampshire primary. If he loses to Huckabee here, the former governor's chances of securing the nomination are severely hurt.

Both men are campaigning in Iowa tomorrow. Huckabee has a full day of events, starting at 8 in the morning and going for the next 12 hours. Romney has scheduled an event in Des Moines. Both are scheduled to take part in the final Republican debate on Wednesday, sponsored by Iowa Public Television and the Des Moines Register.

Of course, an expected ice storm in Iowa could disrupt their plans. The weather report for the Des Moines area said: "Freezing rain will quickly develop this evening and become widespread after midnight... so only travel in an emergency and take your winter survival kit."

--Michael D. Shear

By Washington Post editors  |  December 10, 2007; 6:01 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Ad Watch , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney  
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