January 2nd, 2008
02:20 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney rips Huckabee's Leno appearance

Mitt Romney and John McCain are battling for the lead in the Granite State.

Mitt Romney and John McCain are battling for the lead in the Granite State.

BETTENDORF, Iowa (CNN) –- Mitt Romney, who is spending the final day before the caucuses jetting around Iowa, is hitting rival Mike Huckabee for abandoning the Hawkeye State on caucus eve to make an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

"Well, frankly my focus is on the caucuses here in Iowa. I think Mike is more concerned about the caucus in Los Angeles," Romney told voters at Bettendorf Middle School. "So my focus is on getting folks out to vote in the caucus and connecting my message with the people of Iowa. I think that’s the right course for my campaign."

Romney also went out of his way in his opening comments to attack Sen. John McCain, who is campaigning in Iowa today after spending most of the week so far stumping in New Hampshire.

"Welcome to Iowa, senator," Romney said, before repeating his recent criticism of McCain's past opposition to President Bush's tax cuts and support for last summer's controversial immigration reform bill.

Asked if his criticisms of McCain were a kind of pre-emptive strike against his chief Granite State rival heading into the New Hampshire primary vote next week, the usually on-message Romney drew laughs from reporters with his response:

"Actually, I figured you guys would talk to me about Mike Huckabee, so I took the chance to talk to you about John McCain."

Update: Huckabee is also facing heat for likely having to cross the writers' picket line to appear on the show, though earlier Wednesday he told reporters he didn't believe he would have to cross the picket line.

“My understanding is that there was a special arrangement for the late night shows and the writers have made this agreement to let the late night shows come back on. So I don’t anticipate it’s a crossing of the picket line. I support the writers by the way, unequivocally. Absolutely."

In actuality, only David Letterman's show has reached an agreement. Huckabee's campaign says the candidate will still appear on the show.

- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Iowa • John McCain • Mike Huckabee • Mitt Romney
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Mitt's just jealous that he wasn't invited to appear. Like anyone gives a rat's rump what Mitt Romney thinks......

    January 2, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. Joshua

    Romney/Hunter 08!

    January 2, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Brian, Buffalo NY

    Romney has really turned me off to ever voting for him because of all these attacks he's doing on the other candidates. I can't remember the last time I saw an add with talking about the issues and what he plans to do about them. His whole strategy is "Don't vote for the other guy, hes done this and that", Unfortunately he hasn't said why we should vote for him.

    January 2, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. xtina chicago il

    Well, frankly my focus is on the caucuses here in Iowa. I think Mike is more concerned about the caucus in Los Angeles," Romney told voters at Bettendorf Middle School. So my focus is on getting folks out to vote in the caucus and connecting my message with the people of Iowa. . .

    How does Peter Hamby construe this as "ripping" somebody? It makes a good headline, but it isn't "ripping" into Mike Huckabee by any stretch of the imagination. It's critical but I've heard worse!

    January 2, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. Trang, Fremont, CA

    Mitt Romney,

    You run your campaign as you like and let Huckabee runs his campaign as he likes.

    January 2, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. Joseph, Grand Rapids, MI

    Romney brings up a good point here. Where is Huckabee? Seems to me that he is more concerned with getting in front of the camera then he is about connecting with the people in Iowa. Huckabee is such a fake conservative. His records is simply horrible and he knows that he doesnot stand a chance of beating any of the democrats in the national election come November. Romney is the real deal here and he is the only one that has the strength and character to beat the democrats. Romney has my vote, because he is the best man for the job. Go Mitt!

    January 2, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. Marc

    Instead of worrying about Huckabee's appearance on Leno, Romney should focus more on trying to limit his gaffes and creating a more positive image of himself. May I suggest a Romney guest appearance on HBO's 'Big Love'? Just a thought.

    January 2, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. Chris, Jacksonville

    Great, a pandering ken doll and cult member.

    Should be no stretch for Cruise to play him in the t.v. movie.

    January 2, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  9. Tyler in Raleigh, NC

    Pandering to the voters..... very Presidential, and I honestly mean that.

    In about a month, he will be pandering to those LA voters telling them how Iowa does not deserve to be first in the primaries. Politics as usual.... thats why I am for Ron Paul or Barack Obama, lets get some different opinions for once.

    January 2, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. Max Power, Los Angeles, CA

    I'm Mitt Romney and I approve and disapprove of this message.

    January 2, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  11. dch

    What a loser. Frankly, I hope this guy wins the Rep nomination. I can't wait until Senator Clinton rips him a new one!!

    January 2, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Dale E

    Romney is using his typcial negative campaining style. Appearing on Jay Leno has nothing to do with Huckabee's ability to lead our nation. Boo hoo Mitt, waaah!!

    January 2, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. Gil - California

    I want to congratulate you Romnsfield....wait, that was the other Bush supporter. I mean Romnsfield. Tell us again how you have been a hunter you whole life and how you never pardoned anyone, even that brave military person that spent time in Iraq and whose only crime was shooting a bb gun at someone while he was a child. Tell us again how your attack ads are really the truth even though everyone knows they are full of lies. Tell us again just what you have done for this country. I seem to have missed that. Tell us again how all of you sons are doing community service by campaigning for you.

    Perhaps I've been too harsh Mitt, ok, here is an easy one.....Diamonds or Pearls?

    January 2, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. Suzy

    Atleast unlike most republicans, John McCain can think for himself and doesn't look and act like a robotic puppet.

    January 2, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. Matt S.

    The attack on Huckabee is a feeble, final attempt for Romney to take down the front runner in Iowa. Yes, perhaps Huckabee shouldn't take the caucus for granted, but at this point, it would be a shock to most people, if Huckabee did not come out on top in Iowa. Romney accuses Huckabee of trying to win over the California vote by appearing on The Tonight Show. The Huckabee campaign is smarter than that. The Tonight Show is watched by Americans across the nation, not just in California. What many people saw as a weakness to the Huckabee campaign, is that not many people know him or know his name. Sure many people know him if you focus on the Iowa caucus, but not everybody follows the Iowa caucus. Appearing on The Tonight Show will give him a national audience and will help him in future primaries and caucuses.

    January 2, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Dan

    It's amazing how the Romney campaign brings out many different prejudices out there – the anti-religion types, the anti-Mormon types, those so taken by the brainless "flip-flop" stereotype that clouds the complexity of political life (one use soo effectively against Kerry). Come on people, if you really have a gripe with Romney, reflect some thoughtful criticism in your comments without reverting to simplistic political soundbites and overt prejudice. But perhaps such is the nature of politics – not even Obama's rhetoric has risen above this dribble.

    January 2, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. David, Hopewell Township, NJ

    Mitt only wishes he were invited tonight. Unfortunately, he can't buy an invitation to this event.

    January 2, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  18. Lisa, San Diego, CA.

    Does Romney even have a platform or does he just verbally bash his opponents? Truthfully, I'd rather not see either Mitt or Huck here in CA...they'd probably just Bible thump and insult the states moral values.

    January 2, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. JJ, Cleveland, OH

    I'm guessing the IA caucus on both sides will look very similar to how it wound up 4 years ago for Dems–choc full of surprises. Howard Dean was the presumptive nominee, (a golden boy who, thanks to the internet, had a boatload of cash) and at the 11th hour–probably around the 59th minute, too–Iowans had a collective epiphany, and realized the problem was simple–Dr. Dean was not electable. Sure, his core message resonated with committed believers, but it dawned on them that what they valued–and what Dean brought– wasn't necessarily gonna' "play" across the rest of the country (And while Kerry lost, I think most would agree that he had a better showing than Dean ever would have–Reagan vs. Mondale, anyone?). I certainly have my opinions politically, but to this point, I cannot get excited about anyone in the field, especially when the race for the WH has come to be more about "electability" and far less about fitness and qualification to lead the nation. We're not electing the yearbook editor or the homecoming queen. This nation needs and deserves better than such an attitude from voters, and it's my hope that I can cast a more impassioned and "believing" vote for a nominee come 11/4.

    January 2, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  20. stew

    I think the show is a wonderful way to reach everyone who can not make it to one of the meet ups. Its a wonderful sign when the first day the show is back on, Mike is the guest!

    January 2, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. AJ, IL

    Romney is too overly concerned with his opponents instead of with himself. He is constantly attacking Huckabee or McCain or whoever is near him in the polls even going after their celebrity supporters. Huckabee is trying to get National recognition because he has already done pretty good in Iowa when you look at how much money Mitt spent in Iowa compared to Huckabee (some say 20 to 1). No one has invited Mitt to speak on their social shows. That is a for a reason.

    January 2, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. Joseph

    I can't stand Mitt Romney! His whole family looks like they took time out of their busy golf schedule to go stump in Iowa. He always looks like he just walked off the golf course. C'mon America! Aren't we sick of this entitled, white bread, do-nothing-but-line-their-pockets candidates? Geez, Republicans, mix it up a little bit!

    January 2, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. Dave Diamond, Mont Vernon, NH

    Mitt Romney is such a piece of work. But here's what I think we should do. Why don't all of the candidates step aside - Republicans and Democrats - so that Mitt can be president, as he feels is his right. Seriously, I think Mitt would want it this way.

    January 2, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Vic, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Mitt Romney is a liar, cheat and generally freaky.

    January 2, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  25. James.A

    Mitt the pig...loves to jump in the slop, with his polished exterior. Scratch the surface you'll find the true Mitt. I think he's out to prove he can win because he lost to Kennedy in a Senate race in 2000. Fool

    January 2, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
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