THE PLANK DECEMBER 14, 2007
Time's Jay Carney, who's much more plugged-in on this stuff than I, offers his thoughts on Huckabee's hiring of Ed Rollins:
There are two things to note about this development. First, in Rollins
Huckabee gets a heavyweight political operative who knows how to run
and win a national political campaign. Rollins was political director
to Ronald Reagan in Reagan's first term and ran Reagan's landslide,
49-state re-election victory in 1984. Huckabee is sending the message
that he does not intend to win Iowa and then fade away. He is in it to
win it. But bringing on Rollins sends a second message -- that while
Huckabee is selling himself as Mr. Sunshine on the trail, an
above-the-fray healer who is not a member of the nasty
politics-as-usual crowd, he's just hired one of the toughest and
nastiest political operatives the modern GOP has ever known.
So here's predicting that if Rollins plays an active role in the
campaign, Huckabee's going to start giving as good as he gets, and not
just when he's musing about religions he doesn't understand.
Carney's first point strikes me as so vapid that it's practically meaningless. (What? Before today we thought Huckabee actually intended to fade away post-Iowa?) But his second point is an interesting one. I actually think Huckabee has done a pretty decent job up until now of waging a negative campaign without really seeming to--subtly going negative on Romney by describing himself as "a Christian leader" and then less subtly going negative on Romney with the aforementioned "Jesus and the devil" quote. If Rollins is calling the shots, though, will Huckabee start running the more traditional sort of attack ads? And, if so, will that backfire on him?
One other thought about Huckabee turning to Rollins. Might it have something to do with the fact that no other big-name Republican consultants wanted his business? We've already seen the way the GOP establishment press hates Huckabee. Presumably that ill will toward Huck is shared by some in the GOP consultant class, too. And Rollins, it seems, isn't really a member in goodstanding of the GOP conslutant class--his membership having been suspended in 1992 after working for Perot and then revoked outright in 1993 after his boasts about suppressing the vote in the New Jersey governor's race. If you look at the list of Republican candidates he's worked for since then, it's not terribly impressive. So the outsider candidate now has an outsider consultant.
In fact, the only arena in which Rollins seems to be well-represented of late is on cable news--particularly on Lou Dobbs's show, where he's a frequent guest. You can almost imagine Huckabee, racking his brain for a "name" Republican consultant to hire, turning on CNN, seeing Robbins spouting off on Lou Dobbs (which Huck is watching, of course, to help him formulate his Secure America Plan), and saying "That's my guy!"