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. Jon

    In no way are his comments "ripping" on anyone. the headlines recently on cnn.com are all about getting attention at the expense of the truth. Also anyone who attacks a canidate just because of their religion needs to take a few history lessons on what this country stands for and why is was formed.

    January 2, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  2. E. Elliott, Orlando, FL

    Brian, unfortunately Romney cannot speak much of his plans or policies because they are just more of the same, policies discredited by W and acting Presidnt Chaney. And for CR in California – anti-union statement? Sir, they are republicans. They have tried to destory unions in this country for a hundred years. I do not even know that Ron Paul for his other virtues is any different on that count. Hunter? I could stand him if he would stop the bible thumping, it's near as bad as Huckie's. The position he takes on China is refeshing and accurate. Same for the position on the 12 million criminal immigrants. But did anyone notice today that Nader came out for John Edwards? Nader may be the last, most honest perosn in the Country. If only Edwards would change his immigration position he could have my vote. Same applies to any democrat and the "late" Tancredo.

    January 2, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Darrell


    You are clearly not familiar with Mormonism. Try again.


    You are a fundamentalist evangelical who can't stand losing to a Mormon. Furthermore, if, in fact, Mormons were getting the White House, it would be 200% better than another evangelical bent on Middle East armageddon.

    A vote for Huckabee is a vote for fundamentalist evangelicals. A vote for Huckabee is a vote for incompetency and ignorance! It is a vote for the pompous South who think they run this country!! It is a vote for a guy whose best work is behind a guitar!! He hold events with CHUCK NORRIS (that really adds credibility to U.S.'s position around the world). Don't do it Iowa or New Hampshire!!! You are better than that. Huckabee would be an absolute disaster!!!!!

    January 2, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Jonathan, UT

    I am tired of CNN using words like "rip", "attack", or "bash" to describe what Gov. Romney is doing. It's ridiculous. Can't a candidate compare his record to the history of other candidates?
    All we want is fair media coverage...

    January 2, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  5. janice R

    romney is the GOP's Hillary Clinton with his tart cricisms of Huckabee and McCain. so girlie.

    January 2, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. Jim

    I think Romney looks the part...of a game show host! Enough of the attacks! I like Mike!

    January 2, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. Rac

    Huckabee would be a DISASTER for this country because the Baptist church would have the White house. I beg all Iowans to vote for Romney, and New Hamsirites to vote for Romney. Most of you guys are just plain scary! You'd make me wonder about America but I know you are a small uneducated, uniformed minority.

    January 2, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Chris

    While I agree with Mitt Romney on virtually every major issue, I can't recall a presidential candidate – other than Al Gore – in recent memory who seemed so personally tin, phony and petty. Gore did not drop his pathetic contrived campaign persona until he had to give what was a tremendous concession speech. It was a case of too little too late. I wonder ... will we get a similar speech from Romney this summer?

    January 2, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. Ben

    Mr. Romney, and all other candidates for that matter, should spend less time talking about what other candidate have done and spend a little more time telling Americans what they will do for them. And I'm pretty sure that most people in Iowa 1) have a television and 2) that television gets NBC. Not to mention he's reaching a wider audience than just Iowa, so stop crying Romney. Just focus on sharing your message with Americans, and allow Huckabee to share his.

    January 2, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Jenner

    Why is Huckabee out in LA mingling with the Hollywood libs and chatting it up with Leno?? Wow, what a MONUMENTAL mistake on the eve of the election. He is not even IN Iowa. Iowans will feel second class for sure.

    January 2, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  11. Paul Daigle

    Mitt Romney consistently attacks others when his own record can't sustain him.

    As an independent voter in Massachusetts I can tell you very clearly that Mitt Romney is not fit to lead our nation.

    Romney has flip-flopped on almost every issue: abortion, gay marriage, immigration (not so long ago he labeled McCain's immigration policy as sound and certainly not amnesty – now he labels McCain an amnesty supporter), gun rights (how do people get away with saying they've been endorsed by the NRA when they weren't?),...he had even resisted being labeled a Reagan or Bush republican previously (which now he consistently identifies with)...just who are you really Mitt Romney?

    Oh, and tax cutting? He didn't pass one substantial income tax cut in our state and managed to increase fees on a variety of issues, raise gas taxes, and closed corporate loopholes (read: overall taxes went up in our state by the time he left office). The changes he did initiate led to local municipalities needing to raise taxes and many school districts cutting music, art, gym, and yes, even busing of students.

    Take it from someone from those of us in Massachusetts who know Mitt Romney: Don't vote for him!

    January 2, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. Jenner

    Furthermore, after all that has been said for or against Huckabee and McCain, it is irrelevant. THEY CAN'T WIN. Period.

    As of this afternoon Hannity, Rush, Ann Coulter and every other conservative voice out there is HAMMERING Huckabee and McCain. This has to do with electability. They know that Romney is the only one who stands a chance against the Dems in November. Think about it. Don't vote for Huck/McCain and send Hillary into office.

    January 2, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Ted, Gilbert AZ

    Chris you know very little, I grew up with black mormon families the men coould not hold the priesthood. As far as checking up to see if you pay tithes simply not true. Members are encouragesd to visit but just to check on welfare fiances are not discussed. If you want to look at a churchs history with african american look at this:

    The Southern Baptists are the largest and most reactionary christian denomination in the USA. They split away from the Baptists in 1845 over slavery, because they thought that slavery was okay. After the civil war, some Southern Baptists founded the Ku Klux Klan. Intense hatred against blacks was to remain the trademark of the Southern Baptists for another century.
    In the 1960s, the Southern Baptists supported segregation laws and opposed the black civil rights movement. In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention issued an apology to all African-Americans and asked for their forgiveness. At the 1999 convention, after SB membership had dropped for the first time since 1926, Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson unveiled a new, agressive missionary campaign to target the inner cities and minority populations, except gays and lesbians.

    January 2, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Amused, Las Vegas

    Anybody think that Romney will reach more people in Iowa with comments like this than Huckabee will on Leno tonight?

    January 2, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. Jenner


    I see it opposite. I see Huckabee as the defensive, emotional, inconsistent and whiney one. Romney just comes off as cool, collected and composed. Romney has not said anything that PERSONALLY attcks others, just records. He seems confident and in control. Dare I say...like an CHIEF EXECUTIVE.

    McCain and Huckabee seem wounded and insecure. This is not the attitude we need negotiating with Iran. If Mike is so "offended" by these traditional contrast ads, what kind of MELT DOWN can we expect when he gets hammered by the people who really want to bring down America??

    January 2, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. Jen Cedar Falls, IA

    Mitt truly cares more, he knows more, he's DONE more and he'd be a far better candidate to compete with any Democrat. Mitt all the way!

    January 2, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. C.R., California

    To E.Elliot - I know. I just felt it needed said. I'm a writer, not a WGA member as I don't fall under TV/movie writing, but I personally know people - both writers and crew members– being affected by the strike and it's really bothersome that it's getting overshadowed. Granted, it's not a "big" or "hot" issue, but it's still an issue. Oh, also, I'm not a sir.)

    January 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. David, Oregon City

    I am “dancing in the street” watching the elite media slam Huckabee every chance they get. It’s like watching someone who came from the wrong side of the tracks crash an elite social party in a well-to-do side of town.

    Go Get’um Huckabee!

    January 2, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. Mike Jones, Capt USMC Ret

    I think from the very beginning that Romney has talked about the issues and I like what I hear. He is still talking about the issues and how both him and his opponents differ on those issues.

    Everyone seems to think that he is not a Christian, because he is a Mormon. I think that he lives a Christian life. The scriptures say, "By their fruits you shall know them". From all that I know of Mormons, they serve their church without pay and because they love Christ. Romney seems to do the same. I really liked his speech on Faith in America. We need more Faith in this Country and in God. As a retired Marine Corps Officer, I love my County and everything that America traditionally stands for. I think that Romney does so too.

    He has my vote. Go Mitt.

    January 2, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Fanta

    Mitt's ads have not been attack ads. Mitt is simply pointing out the difference between him and his opponents. Mitt is focused on the issues. McCain and Huckabee keep responding with personal attacks rather than defending their positions.

    Mitt is the best GOP candidate out there right now. If you want something to get changed in Washington, Mitt is one you want.

    January 2, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. Richard, Ewing, NJ


    I am not a Huckabee supporter, but you really clueless or rightous deceiving to accuse the Baptist church will take over the White House when Mike Huckabee is elected. Should we also think the Mormon church takes over US when Mitt get elected? Mitt has a much closer relationship with the LDS church than Huckabee with the Baptist church. Huckabee is what people call a christian left. There was a huge fight in the Baptist church between the left and the right. Huckabee essentially sided with the losing Christian Left side. The current Christian right leaders dislike Huckabee. How many Evangelical leaders back Huckabee? Pat Robertson endorsed Guiliani. Robert R. Taylor, dean of Bob Jones University, backed Romney. James Dobson nor Richard Land refused to endorse Huckabee's at this very critical moment. The whole idea that the Baptist leaders will invade the White House because of Huckabee presidency is ridiculous.

    January 2, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. RSatina, Leesburg, Virginia

    Media is magnifying the so called "negative ad" campagin of Romney when in FACT he is just trying to clarify and present the real issues. Bigots everywhere !!!! Go Mitt!

    January 2, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  23. Jacob, Indianapolis, IN

    I love how the anti-Romney camp trots out the tired and desperate generalities – "he's a liar," "he's a Mormon," "he's rich," "he attacks other candidates."

    The truth is Romney's ads compares his stance on the issues to the other candidates' stances and asks the viewers to decide. He gives information and doesn't personally attack any candidate. In contrast, the Huckster calls him a "liar," makes and the "retracts" a negative ad, pretends he knows nothing about the Mormon religion, puts his foot in his mouth every time he opens it, and he's the one being attacked by Romney? Give me a break.

    If I had the money Romney had, I sure wouldn't pour it into politics. I wouldn't be put under a microscope like him either. He is running because he believes he can make a difference. More than I can say for the Huckster who charges for his speeches. Huckabee's a joke and it's an embarrassment to Iowans that they are even considering voting for this guy.

    January 2, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. RSatina, Leesburg, Virginia

    Among GOP candiates, Mitt Romney is the only one who is morally capable, good value system, experienced leader and an efficient manager.

    January 2, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. YooHoo

    Ads designed to point out the policy weaknesses of your opponents, i.e. candidates for the highest office in the land, are not "attack" ads. That's silly. People have a right to know that Huckabee does not have a record of fiscal conservatism just like they have a right to know that Romney is the worst kind of political opportunist. Neither is deserving of the Republican nomination.

    January 2, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
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