Romney is getting tough on Huckabee.
HUMBOLDT, Iowa (CNN) - Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accused opponent Mike Huckabee Saturday of sounding like a Democrat when he criticized the Bush administration and its handling of the war in Iraq.
"I had to look again," the former Massachusetts governor said, referring to Huckabee's words in the January/February issue of 'Foreign Affairs.'
"Did this come from Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Did it come from John Edwards?"
"No, it was one of our own," Romney continued. "It was Governor Huckabee."
Romney was referring to an article written by Huckabee titled "America's Priorities in the War on Terror."
In the second paragraph, Huckabee writes, "American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad."
"I cant believe he'd say that," Romney said. "I'm afraid he's running from the wrong party. The truth of the matter is this president has kept us safe these last six years."
While admitting the war has not gone "perfectly," Romney defended the president for a number of things that have gone well, including the collapse of Saddam Hussein. He went as far as thanking Bush for the Patriot Act and for making sure that when "Al Qaeda was calling someone was listening."
Romney also noted that the current surge of U.S. troops in Iraq is working.
Pressed by reporters after the event, Romney would not say whether or not he believes the war, on the whole, was managed well.
"There were a number of errors made," Romney said. "But its very different to point out that there are errors and mistakes than to say the Bush administration should be accused of an arrogant bunker mentality."
Just minutes after Romney's initial criticisms of his GOP rival, he told a questioner wanting to know more about the differences between him and Huckabee that the two men were "great friends."
UPDATE: Responding to Romney's attacks, Huckabee said, "I am disappointed by Governor Romney’s attempt to label me as a 'Democrat' because of my tough approach to foreign policy."
"Perhaps he should read the article in its entirety before making such ill-informed comments."
In a statement, a Huckabee spokeswoman called Romney's support of the current troop surge an example of flip-flopping, adding that earlier this year Romney "endorsed setting 'timetables and milestones' for Iraq policy."
- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
McCain is campaigning in South Carolina Saturday.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Republican John McCain has won the backing of over 100 retired admirals and generals, the presidential hopeful announced Saturday at a campaign event in the early-voting state of South Carolina.
Admiral Leighton "Snuffy" Smith, one of five veterans who joined McCain at a morning event in Columbia, said the Arizona senator is the best equipped of the presidential candidates to fight the war on terror.
"This nation is at war and we'd better damn well understand that fact," Smith said. "John McCain understands it, and he is the only candidate that has not wavered one bit in his position regarding the importance of victory in the war against Islamic extremism or in his commitment to the troops who are doing the fighting."
McCain said he was "deeply honored" to have the support of the officers, who have "literally hundreds of years of service" between them collectively.
McCain made the announcement in this crucial campaign state the morning after he pleaded with supporters near Charleston to put signs in their yards and make phone calls on his behalf. He said he felt "invigorated" and promised that "we're going to win this primary."
A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll shows a tight Republican presidential race in the Palmetto State. McCain stands in 5th place with 13 percent of support, while leader Mike Huckabee is at 24 percent. The survey carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
- CNN’s Peter Hamby and Alexander Mooney
Is Huckabee this year's Howard Dean?
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Is Mike Huckabee the new Howard Dean?
That's what one prominent conservative thinks, and he's warning his fellow Republicans not to nominate the former Arkansas governor.
Rich Lowry, an editor of the conservative publication the National Review (which endorsed rival Mitt Romney this week), writes on the Republican Web site Townhall.com Friday that nominating Huckabee would amount to "an act of suicide" for the party.
"Like Dean, Huckabee is an under-vetted former governor who is manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States," Lowry writes. "Like Dean, he is rising toward the top of polls in a crowded field based on his appeal to a particular niche of his party."
"As with Dean, his vulnerabilities in a general election are so screamingly obvious that it's hard to believe that primary voters, once they focus seriously on their choice, will nominate him," he adds.
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, has gained ground in several key primary states largely due to his appeal to Republican evangelical voters. Recent polls have suggested he now holds a double-digit lead over Romney in Iowa, and is in front of Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson in South Carolina.
And in the latest sign Huckabee's campaign is gaining serious momentum, veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins - the architect of Ronald Reagan's 1984 landslide re-election victory - has signed on to help manage the operation.
Not so fast, says Lowry. According to the conservative commentator, nominating a Baptist minister would turn one of the party's assets - its message of social conservatism - into a liability.
"[A] Baptist pastor running on his religiosity would be rather overdoing it," he wrote. "Social conservatism has to be part of the Republican message, but it can't be the message in its entirety."
In response to Lowry's column, campaign manager Chip Saltsman defended Huckabee's electability and record as governor.
"Rich Lowry should know that four of the past five U.S. presidents have been governors, and all but Ronald Reagan were from the South," Saltsman said. "Mike Huckabee's candidacy is picking up steam because his optimistic, conservative message is resonating with voters who are looking for a leader with vision and experience. He has been elected four times for statewide office, twice as governor, in a Democratic-state because he places a premium on results, and that's what the American people are looking for."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
NEWBERRY, South Carolina (CNN) - Perhaps it's only the smallest of ironies, but Sen. John McCain just delivered the commencement speech at tiny Newberry College, the alma mater of legendary political strategist Lee Atwater.
Atwater may be best known as the mastermind of George H.W. Bush's victory over Michael Dukakis in 1988, but Palmetto State political junkies know him as the talented and brash native son that had a take no prisoners approach when it came to politics.
The Newberry graduate, who died of cancer in 1991, introduced all sorts of aggressive tactics to state political campaigning, while working for towering Republican figures such as former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell and former Sen. Strom Thurmond.
McCain became a victim of that hardball legacy when he lost to George W. Bush here in the 2000 primary following a vicious whisper campaign mounted against him by McCain opponents.
McCain spoke to the graduates Saturday about the value of honor and sacrifice.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Huckabee had some sharp words for the Bush administration Friday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Mike Huckabee is questioning the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, criticizing what he calls the White House’s “arrogant bunker mentality.”
“Much like a top high school student, if [the United States] is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised,” he writes in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs.
In the magazine, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Huckabee says the president did not call for enough troops during the invasion of Iraq, and disregarded the advice of Gen. Eric Shinseki, who said several hundred thousands troops would be needed.
Huckabee also calls recent U.S. policy toward Pakistan a “setback” and a “waste” in the article, released Friday, and says that the United States “might be able to live with a contained Iran.”
The former Arkansas governor has poked fun at his own lack of foreign policy experience, saying earlier this month that while his grasp of foreign policy might be thin, he “did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."
He faced criticism from campaign rivals last week for not being aware of an intelligence assessment released by the White House that said Iran had effectively ended its effort to create nuclear weapons in 2003 until he was informed of the report by journalists a day later. He told reporters he had been too busy on the trail to keep track of the development.
- CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand
Giuliani is set to deliver a major address in Florida Saturday morning.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani will argue he is a tested and proven leader in a speech Saturday that seems designed to shift momentum toward his campaign with less than three weeks until the primary season begins.
"If you are looking for perfection, you are not going to find it," Giuliani will say during a campaign address in Tampa, Florida, according to prepared remarks provided by the campaign. "Not in me and not in any candidate.
"But if you are looking for a leader who has been tested in times of crisis, a leader who is ready to lead right now, a leader who has achieved results – results that some people thought were impossible – a leader who believes that there is no problem too serious for American solutions and a free, American spirit … I believe I am that leader," he will add.
In the wide-ranging address that follows the release of several polls in the last two weeks suggesting he has lost his once-comfortable lead nationally, the former New York City mayor will call for continued vigilance in the war on terror, attaining energy independence, and getting tough on illegal immigration.
While most of the presidential field is focused on the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Giuliani is hoping a win in Florida - which votes January 29 - will provide the former New York mayor significant momentum heading into the February 5 Super Tuesday contests.
Most polls out of Florida indicate Giuliani holds a narrow lead in the Sunshine State over rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The presidential nomination races in both parties remain unsettled less than three weeks before Iowa's caucuses when the first primary votes in the nation will be cast.
In Friday's The Best Political Podcast Jessica Yellin reports on Sen. Hillary Clinton's, D-New York, final push to make the case for her electability next November.
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll of likely South Carolina voters shows a new Republican front-runner and a tightening race among Democrats.
Dana Bash reports from the campaign trail in Iowa about the addition of a veteran GOP strategist as the Huckabee campaign's new national chairman and Special Correspondent Frank Sesno joins Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room to take a closer look at a new campaign ad released by Sen. Barack Obama.
Plus, a look back at this week's top moments in the 2008 presidential race in Jennifer Mikell's Trail Mix.
Click here to subscribe to The Best Political Podcast
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona
JAMES ISLAND, South Carolina (CNN) – Sen. John McCain made abundantly clear Friday that his fate in South Carolina rests firmly on the coastal areas that voted in his favor when he ran for president in 2000.
Although he has campaigned furiously along the coast, populated by thousands of McCain-friendly veterans and military personnel, it’s the first time he's acknowledged the region is a must-win for him.
"We've got to carry the coast heavily," he said to an audience at an American Legion hall here. "We've got to win on the coast, and I think we can. We've got to win all over, but its very important we win here."
McCain defeated then-Texas Gov. George Bush in several coastal counties in the 2000 primary, while Bush dominated McCain in Upstate counties with larger populations of GOP primary voters and churchgoing conservatives.
But unlike that primary nearly eight years ago, the current GOP contest is not just a two-man race, which could dilute McCain's support where he needs it most.
South Carolina's demographics have also changed: out-of-state retirees, including many New Yorkers, have poured into communities in and around cities like Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when he campaigns here, targets coastal communities in particular.
Still, McCain was in friendly territory on Friday as he made an old-fashioned political appeal to the crowd of veterans gathered around a bar.
"I'm asking for your support," he said. "I'm asking for your vote and I'm asking you to make a few phone calls. I'm asking you to put up a sign in your yard."
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Attorney General Michael Mukasey
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Friday rejected demands from key congressional leaders for information about the Justice Department's preliminary inquiry into the destruction of CIA tapes of detainee interrogations, saying to do so might be seen as bowing to "political influence."
In letters to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, he said he would not turn over the material they want nor would he appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the investigation, as some lawmakers had requested.
"At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure and ensure that politics plays no role in cases brought by the Department of Justice. Consistent with that testimony, the facts will be followed wherever they lead in this inquiry and the relevant law applied," Mukasey said.
He sent a third similar letter to Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who had been the first to issue demands for information from the Justice Department.
"With regard to the suggestion that I appoint a special counsel, I am aware of no facts at present to suggest that department attorneys cannot conduct this inquiry in an impartial manner. If I become aware of information that leads me to a different conclusion, I will act on it," Mukasey said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said he was "disappointed" by the decision and indicated a confrontation with the new attorney general will come early next year.
“I think this guy is going to implode and, if he doesn’t implode, he gets the Republican nomination, I think the Republicans might as well just write it off,” Beck said on CNN’s The Situation Room Friday.
Asked about the naming of Ed Rollins, who is credited with President Reagan’s landslide re-election, as Huckabee’s new national campaign chairman, Beck said, “I am so sick and tired of hearing people talk about how much they’re like Ronald Reagan.” “I wish people would be themselves, not Ronald Reagan,” he added.
Watch Beck’s entire interview with Wolf Blitzer.
Related video: Rollins on Huckabee
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart