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. Anom cal

    MITT for Mormons against HUCKABEE for Christians, another religious war!
    This time on American soil!

    January 2, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. George Betros

    Hey Ken:

    GIven the near incoherent quality of your post along with your neo-lithic writing style, I would be inclined to agree with your concerns about the quality of education in this country. As for your assertion that this nation is in a "dire situation" you might want to consider that the 90's with "Bilary" at the helm, were actually great and further, that Mitt Romney made most of his substantial fortune during that time in that particular economic boom.

    January 2, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  3. Michael Novak

    Romney is as phony as a $3 bill. I hope he finishes no better than 4th in Iowa.

    January 2, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  4. stunnedsilence

    By emphasizing his qualification for office as a “Christian leader,” the Huckabee campaign, however, has implicitly, and some of his supporters have explicitly, promoted a religious test for office. This threatens to tear this religious coalition apart. And if evangelical Christians legitimize a religious test for public office, they will pay the heaviest price. The liberal elites have long sought to drive people of faith from the public square. They view Mormons as a curiosity, like Christians on steroids, but they loath and fear evangelicals. If a religious test is legitimate for public office, then the Democrats will drive evangelicals out of our democracy.

    So will the Huckabee campaign be the stake in the heart of the Reagan coalition? It is apparent that the Democrat National Committee hopes so, as Huckabee has largely escaped their criticism. Mitt Romney, however, has been the focal point of their attacks. That is because he is a full-spectrum conservative who will reunite the Reagan coalition. This is the Republican voter’s choice, are we to unite together, or will some of us simply “go by the wayside?”

    January 2, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  5. Charles in Salt Lake City, UT

    Boiled down to the bare basics:

    Mitt Romney comes across as a classless, envious, spoiled brat who responds to anyone else who receives attention by "ripping into" them. This isn't just a campaign tactic - it is indicative of a deep and basic character flaw. Can anyone out there picture how this approach would play for a leader attempting to form a bipartisan consensus, or engage in diplomatic relations?

    This vain man seems to do just fine when he is being praised and stroked by his fans and supporters who adore him, but the slightest wiff of the real world beyond this "Oz" seems to bring out the real Mitt Romney, and that man is half joke, half disappointment.

    January 2, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  6. David ~ Austin, Texas


    I’d like to respond to your post, since I believe I’m the one who wrote a comment that you refer to.

    You write, “Mitt Romney is a leader. He does not sit around pandering but rather fights on issue. The best way to point out strengths is to compare differences. Someone pointed out that those comparisons were only part truths. In fact they a full and complete truths. You cannot cover every single detail in a 30 second (or less) TV spot. Mike Huckabee has not been truthful regarding his liberal record and that is a fact.

    First, I understand that in a 30 second time slot, one cannot cover every nuance of a given topic. That being said, if one is honest they should ensure that brevity doesn’t end up distorting the facts. I will give you some examples. The text in bold is a statement from one of Romney’s ads. The text in italic is what was left out.

    McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently…

    McCain's compromise legislation introduced last summer, which was backed by President Bush, would have required illegal immigrants to return to their home countries and pay a fine for breaking the law before applying for legal status.

    Mike Huckabee.... His foreign policy? 'Ludicrous,' says Condoleezza Rice…

    Secretary of State Rice, however, did not call Huckabee's foreign policy "ludicrous, she was responding to a comment he made.

    McCain…even voted to allow illegal’s to collect Social Security

    McCain voted to allow illegal’s to receive past Social Security benefits only after obtaining legal status.

    I’m sorry, but that’s not a full and complete truths, that’s only partial truth. At best it’s brevity to the point of distortion. At worst it’s a deliberate mischaracterization of his opponent’s record. Romney’s words are not being twisted or distorted, he’s doing that on his own.

    January 2, 2008 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. vtercell, just wanderin' around in America

    Romney can stop worrying about all those nasty people saying bad things about his religion to try to use against him. He's become the biggest argument against the Mormon church there is. It'll be a long time before anybody who's been listening to the half-truths and vitrol coming from this man's mouth will feel like trusting whatever a Mormon might have to say about anything.

    January 2, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  8. sherry

    Rommney is a lair, and very delusional, he has lied so much during this campain, how can u tell when he is telling the truth. If he has lied to get to be president what makes you think that he would lie while in office.
    I don't consider shooting squirrels hunting.

    January 2, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  9. George Betros

    Hey Ken: (Again)

    With that stuff about "Bilary" destroying "what's left of our country" (or something like that) it seems as if you might be listening to old recordings of that blowhard Rush Limbaugh from the late 90s (back before we knew he was a hypocrite pill-popper). You remember the late 90s? When we didn't appreciate how good we really had it and let ourselves get all aflutter about the Commander-in-Chief getting a little side action from a chubby intern? Comments about "what's left of our country" should be reserved for the present-day situation that has been thrust upon us by the room-temperature IQ ex-frat boy, ex-cokehead, ex-drunk current occupant of the Oval Office who has demolished our reputation around the world. The second most idiotic thing we ever did in the mind of world leaders (behind electing Dubya') was the knee-jerk overreaction to Clinton's extra-curricular activities in the first place.

    January 2, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  10. Charlie

    I must have missed when Romney completely gave up on his own campaign and just started to attack his opponents, mainly Huckabee. It's a shame, at one point, albeit early on, he was the front runner for the party and in the last month I think he's lost alot of voters with all his negative attacks and seeminly very little focus on his own campaign.

    January 2, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  11. mary

    Maybe you all should study your American History. This country was founded on Christianity.. Separation of Church and State was created to protect religious freedom and not keep it out of government and schools. History books and courts have misled too many. We have gotten away from what our forefathers intended for this country. Go back to the ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS of this country and not the interpretation of the courts and see for yourself. Read the Declaration of Independece and other documents. Don't rely on what you think you know.

    January 2, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  12. Kevin

    you guys are are such hypocrites, you are so mad about the use of so called "negative campaigning" by romney, yet what are you doing right now? Negative campaigning against romney. Judging from your comments you'd be slinging even more mud about pointless things like religion, diversity in utah, and hair cuts.

    I'm sick of all you hyprocites

    vote for who you're going to vote for and let that do the talking

    January 2, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  13. Chuck Windom

    Charles in Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

    "Mitt Romney comes across as a classless, envious, spoiled brat who responds to anyone else who receives attention by "ripping into" them. This isn't just a campaign tactic — it is indicative of a deep and basic character flaw. Can anyone out there picture how this approach would play for a leader attempting to form a bipartisan consensus, or engage in diplomatic relations?"

    I'm starting to see the flaw also Charles. I don't know what it is yet. Maybe some personality trait inherent of being raised as a Mormon. Is it true that Utah leads the nation in prescriptions issued for anti-depressants – nearly twice the national average.

    See: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/06/03/eveningnews/main510918.shtml

    Is there any clinical psychiatrists out there that want to weigh in on this?

    January 2, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  14. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

    "We have gotten away from what our forefathers intended for this country. Go back to the ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS of this country and not the interpretation of the courts and see for yourself. Read the Declaration of Independece and other documents."
    Our nation and government was set up by the LEGAL document called the Constitution of the United States. (Note: the Declaration of Independence has no legal standing in our laws). In the preamble, it lists the 6 major intentions of the people who created it: (1) form a more perfect Union, (2) establish Justice, (3) insure domestic Tranquility, (4) provide for the common defense, (5) promote the general Welfare, and (6) secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. NOWHERE does it reference having any religious intentions.

    The Constitution only deals with religion to limit the govenment from establishing a religion or requiring religious tests to hold office.

    Never forget that the predominantly Christian men who were given the chance to create the greatest nation in the world, CHOSE TO KEEP RELIGION SEPARATE FROM GOVERNMENT.

    "Maybe you all should study your American History. "

    January 2, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  15. Coco

    So Huckabee crosses the picket lines to trade one liners (no substance of course) with Leno (even after being informed about the writer's strike ahead of time......) then acts dumb and pleads ignorance to the strike. That seems to be his back up for every dumb decision he makes (and there have been plenty of those now, haven't there??!!)

    Huckabee has lost any credibility he may have ever had with those of us who initially supported him. His attack ad – “I'm innocent” ploy on Monday was just embarrassing to watch. I know it just reinforced my concerns about his true nature and motives (there have been too many backtracks and "deer in the headlights-who me?" responses throughout his campaign). Also, Huckabee's obvious lack of substance or grasp of important facts (that as a presidential candidate should be down solid at this point) is unacceptable.

    O.K…….let’s compare candidates....An evangelical pastor/entertainer (Huckabee) vs. an experienced, supremely intelligent presidential candidate (Romney). We are voting for a president to represent and run the most powerful country in the world. The future of America and the direction it is headed is an extremely important and serious matter. I want the best, most qualified person leading us, not a clownish amateur that doesn't have a clue. I can see why all the respected, true conservative talk show hosts, journalists, bloggers, etc. have come down so hard on Mike Huckabee and John McCain (have you read the list–including Rush Limbaugh's latest statements today) on Iowansforromney.com?). Huckabee's latest wacko mis-statements and publicity stunt fiasco on Monday just reiterates why I'm voting for competence. John McCain is just plain mean, a liberal and a MSM prop since Huckabee is no longer a viable glass house to put up against Hillary.
    Go Mitt!

    January 2, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  16. Sam

    I think there is a difference between negative ads and identifying past voting history. Huckabee sure isn't going to tell people how he has voted in the past. Romney's ads display the difference in voting, nothing else. Huckabee and McCain respond by calling names, like a couple of school kids who got told on. The media sure does like to down Romney by talking about how "negative" these not so negative ads really are.

    January 2, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  17. Mary Switzer

    "The Constitution only deals with religion to limit the govenment from establishing a religion or requiring religious tests to hold office."

    Richard West, maybe you should learn to study your text and then tell me why I cannot use such a test as an aid to help me on who I choose to vote for!

    January 2, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  18. Z

    Romney is a phoney/sleazy used car salesman type and Huckelberry is a sleazy fairy tale salesman..They are both fighting for their "territory"..Both of them are users of people to get what they want.They are both as shallow as a kiddie pool.
    Not that Hillary or Edwards are any better, they are just the flip side of these two.
    None of lot of them is fit to fart in the White House..In fact there isn't a cadidate in
    either party thats really worth anything...My vote..NONE OF THE ABOVE...

    January 2, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  19. mary

    Several government buildings were used as as places of worship on Sunday after the Constitution was written. Maybe there interpretation of separation of church and state has become different that ours.

    January 2, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  20. David Lee

    Huck always does the right thing?...What would Jesus do as he says. First he says there is no cross in the background of his ad. Then he says vote for me because I am an honest guy. Jesus will get you for that one. "Thou shalt not lie". Then he calls his rival a dishonest man for stating facts about his term as "Liberal Manager" of Arkansas. Jesus will get you for this one too Huck, espically if he is listening to the prayers of the woman who lost her daughter because you let the criminal out of jail! "Thou shalt not steal...a life". Then he wants to show a negitive ad, then stops it only to show it to the press and makes sure its out there so he can take the high road and say "I pulled the ad", when its already out there. Free press and the press gets sucked in, What a joke! What would Jesus do? He would not even have thought about a negitive ad, let alone given it to the press. "Thou shalt not deceive thy neighbors" ..."again and again". What a deceiver. And this guy is a preacher? One can only wonder what Jesus will do when he meets the Huck, We all know what Huck will say..."Can I open a gift registery for my believers to help my cause"? Its really sad. No, Huck is really sad.

    January 2, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  21. Charles in Salt Lake City, UT

    Chuck Windom:

    I thank you, sir. I've studied and counselled with people living in Utah for over 30 years, and have to say that your observation has a certain degree of merit worth considering. Not a universal condition by any means, nor necessarily an inevitable one, but there is obviously something there.

    Incidentally, though Latter-day Saints may be among the nicest and most sincere people you could ever hope to know, there is probably no other group whose members on average know less about its own actual history, origins, and teachings. Rather, many tend to settle into oblivious "comfort zones" of their own making, discarding any challenging or critical thought as an untruth, contentedly certain of nothing except for their own correctness.

    And yes, this does sound very much like our friend Mitt Romney.

    January 2, 2008 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  22. Mary Switzer

    Ha – the picture above should have been captioned: "and the Squirrel was this big."

    January 2, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  23. David ~ Austin, Texas


    Studying American History is important, but understanding it is every bit as important. This country was not founded on Christianity. Certainly, the vast majority of immigrants were a member of a branch of Christianity. Most of the founders of the this country were Christian as well, but not all. However, even this faith was tempered with the belief that a wall should exist between the Church and State. Baptist theologian Roger Williams wrote of, "[A] hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world".

    Thomas Jefferson (who believed in God) wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, in which he said, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

    James Madison's original draft of the Bill of Rights had included provisions binding the States, as well as the Federal Government, from an establishment of religion, but the House did not pass them. After retiring from the presidency, Madison argued in his detached memoranda for a strong separation of church and state.

    George Washington wrote in 1790 to the country's first Jewish congregation, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island to state, “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

    The Presidential Oath of Office, as stated in the Constitution does not include the words “So help me God”. In fact Presidents between Washington and Rutherford B. Hayes did not use the phrase "So help me God." Abraham Lincoln, although he was specifically requested to use the name of God in his oath, refused, with the explanation that it was not in the constitution. Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901, John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law. Neither a Bible nor the words "So help me God" at the end of the oath are required by law. Many of the early Presidents used a book of law, and not the Bible to take their oath. This doesn’t mean that they did not believe in Christianity (most did), but they were attempting to keep that separation between their personal faith, and their role as public servant.

    As far as the original documents are concerned, yes the Declaration of Independence has the word “Creator” and “God” in it. However that document has no basis on the system of government that the founders put into place. A far more important document is the Constitution of the United States. This document is the basis for our system of government and its laws. It is to this document that you should look to for what our forefathers intended for our country. Not one time does the word “Creator” or “God” appear in the Constitution.

    You appear to argue that our forefathers intended for our country to have religion in our government and schools. If that is your argument, then I have but one question. Why didn’t they? Why didn’t the founding fathers simply establish Christianity as the National Religion? It could have been done, the majority were Christian, and there was precedent. After all, the King of England who ruled the colonies was also the head of the Church. The answer, I believe, is clear. That was exactly what the founders didn’t want. It’s bad enough when you find yourself in disagreement with an earthly authority, it’s much worse when that earthly authority is also the heavenly authority.

    The Founding Fathers as Christians, wanted to form a country where each and every person could worship as they pleased without criticism, commentary, or undue pressure from their representative government. They realized that all other faiths would suffer persecution and prejudice if there was a National or Official faith. And so, with the very first amendment they wrote these 16 words to protect each person’s right to worship as their conscience dictates: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."

    With no ill will in my heart, I suggest that you celebrate this right. Worship as your own conscience dictates, without trying to mandate your faith, and let others do the same.

    January 2, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  24. Chad, Kauai Hawaii

    Politics make me nausious, listening to ignorant people fight and argue about politics when all they really don't inderstand whats going on make me even more nausious. I cringe to think that so many of you are actually allowed to vote... I personally think every voter needs to pass a political IQ test before they vote. The thought of some religious fool not voting for someone because of their religion, or some ignorant housewife voting for a candidate becasue Oprah tells them to, and all of those who read a headline and assume that our media can never lead us astray is pretty scarry. Do you know what our politics are actually about? My personal feelings about a candidate is that if he's concerned about the environment and education, wants to fight terrorists and aid in other countries struggles, fights immorality in America, and illegal immigration while supporting a tax system that not caters to me but to make the economy stronger all while doing this without their political personal interests in mind has got my vote. Seriously does it really make any difference if he strapped a dog to the top of his car for a drive or that he believes Jesus is Satans brother. Lets just vote for who will screw up the least because I guarentee your candidate is going to screw up too.

    January 2, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  25. Randy

    Mitt Romney would do us all a favor if he would just withdraw from the Presidential Race and just donate to charity the money he is spending from his own pockets. We don't need a President who just tries to belittle everyone around him with his constant half-truths and deceptions. The USA deserves better than him.

    January 2, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
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