WASHINGTON (CNN) - The presidential candidates and their surrogates took a brief break from attacking each other Thursday to beat up on the media instead.
Bill Clinton, campaigning on his wife’s behalf in California, had a testy San Francisco face-off with a reporter he barely knew. Mitt Romney tangled with a reporter – the AP’s Glen Johnson, late of the Boston Globe – he knows all too well. And John Edwards’ campaign took on the entire press corps, blasting the media for allegedly ignoring the former North Carolina senator this cycle in favor of the flashier Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama duel (and prompting a reprise of the eternal chicken-or-the-egg dilemma of trail reporting: which comes first, the poll numbers or the press coverage?)
It’s roughly an East-West divide again today – Democrats trying their luck in and around Las Vegas, Republicans stumping in South Carolina – with the exception of Mitt Romney, who may benefit from Nevada’s sizeable Mormon minority in the state’s mostly-neglected GOP caucuses this Saturday.
Meanwhile: the “Common Sense Issues” robo-call marathon on his behalf may be winding down in South Carolina, but Mike Huckabee has even more intimidating allies on his side there this week.
The former Arkansas governor seems to be running neck-and-neck with John McCain in the state as that race draws to a close, but if 12-year-old boys could vote, it wouldn’t even be close: martial arts star Chuck Norris, who has spent much of the primary season stumping for the former Arkansas governor, has been joined on the Huckabee campaign trail this week by WWE star Ric Flair.
That combination of push poll madness and high-profile muscle backing Huckabee should be enough to strike fear in the heart of any Republican rival. But none of them may be much help when it comes to battling the man who looks, at least this week, to be Huckabee’s biggest enemy: the candidate himself.
So far this week, the former governor has: said the Constitution should be amended to comply with divine mandates; created a stir when his damage control involved telling FOX he wasn’t “suggesting that we re-write the constitution to reflect tithing or Sunday school attendance”; become the first presidential candidate to sign a controversial, headline-grabbing anti-immigration pledge; and told a Southern crowd that when it came to the Stars and Bars, if outsiders “want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole.”
Those comments might play well with some of South Carolina's Republicans – but what are they going to say when he gets to L.A.? Saturday’s vote may dominate the conversation this week, but the February 5 contests loom ever larger.
– CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand