James Forsyth

Going negative

Going negative
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The Republican primary race has entered a decisive phase with Mitt Romney’s decision to go negative on the surging Mike Huckabee. Romney’s unleashed the first attack ad of the campaign hitting Huckabee for his position on immigration and he’s knocking him in tough language on television, telling last night’s evening news that: “I’m convinced as people take a good hard look at Mike Huckabee’s record, they’ll see this is a guy who is soft on criminals, soft on illegal aliens, but hard on taxpayers. And that’s not what’s going to lead the Republican party to take the White House.” On top of this, Romney’s favourite outlet for opposition research, The Drudge Report, is playing up stories that are damaging to Huckabee.

This is a risky strategy for the Romney campaign. First, Iowa voters are notoriously dislike negative campaigning and so Romney risks a backlash in a state he really needs to win after devoting unparalleled resources and effort to it. Second, if these attacks don’t work they’ll inoculate Huckabee against the charges down the line. Third, the rest of the GOP field don’t like Romney much—partly because of his hypocrisy, the man who is attacking others for wanting to let the children of illegal immigrants go to university at the in-state rate has been caught with illegals working on his lawn twice—and can use Romney’s negative ads as a good chance to take a swipe. 

The Democratic race might be close but it is predictable: either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will end up as the nominee. On the Republican side, there are five guys still in with a real chance of winning the nomination and no one can really tell you how this is going to pan out. Expect the fight to get very nasty before it's all over.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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