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Seeking victories in 2 states, Romney criticizes Huckabee, McCain in 2 new ads

Seeking victories in 2 states, Romney criticizes Huckabee, McCain in 2 new ads

Seeking victories in two crucial early voting states, Mitt Romney launched new hard-hitting ads against his top Republican presidential rivals, criticizing Mike Huckabee on foreign policy and spending while assailing John McCain on taxes and immigration.
The former Massachusetts governor's willingness to go after his opponents _ and risk the ire of voters who could punish him for negative campaigning _ underscores the high stakes of the contests in both states as well as the tenuous state of his own bid.
His strategy hinges on using momentum from back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire to make him unstoppable in battlegrounds beyond. He once led by large margins in those two states, but now finds himself threatened on both fronts.
Iowa and New Hampshire are holding the first contests in the country's state-by-state process of selecting presidential nominees from each party. Candidates who do well in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 and in the New Hampshire primary five days later are generally able to establish themselves as front-runners for their party's nomination. Those who do poorly often decide to drop out of the race.
The targets of the ads brushed off the criticism and suggested they were proof that Romney's campaign was in trouble in the days before the first tests of the 2008 nomination process.
"Who is ready to make tough decisions? Mike Huckabee? Soft on government spending," Romney's latest ad in Iowa against the former Arkansas governor says. It also portrays his opponent anew as weak on immigration and crime and quotes President George W. Bush's secretary of state: "His foreign policy? 'Ludicrous,' says Condoleezza Rice."
In New Hampshire, Romney's first tough spot against McCain asks: "Is he the right Republican for the future? McCain opposes repeal of the death tax. And voted against the Bush tax cuts _ twice. McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently. Even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security."
Both ads were launched Friday and come as the Republican races for the top spot in Iowa and New Hampshire have largely turned into two-way battles, with Romney the common denominator. Romney is trying to overtake Huckabee in Iowa's caucuses and fend off McCain's challenge in next-up New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the nation on Jan. 8.
"It is very clear that Governor Romney attacks when people are catching up with him," McCain told reporters in New Hampshire. "I understand why he's talking about the future since he's spent most of his time running away from his past."
McCain also responded with his own commercial. It highlights quotes from New Hampshire newspapers that have endorsed him over Romney, including The Concord Monitor that said: "If a candidate is a phony ... we'll know it. Mitt Romney is such a candidate."
Unwilling to let the matter stand, Romney defended his own ad as a comparison on key issues, and accused his rival of airing "an attack ad that attacks me personally. It's nasty, it's mean-spirited. Frankly it tells you more about Senator McCain than it says about me," he said. He argued that the ad was "reminiscent of what he (McCain) did against George W. Bush in 2000. He accused President Bush of twisting the truth like Bill Clinton."
In Pella, Iowa, Huckabee dismissed Romney's criticism and said he does not plan to run negative TV ads.
"We are going to show that a positive campaign works. If it doesn't, the American people will decide they like negative, nasty, untrue, dishonest advertising," he said.
Polls show Huckabee's advantage in Iowa narrowing in the past few weeks as Romney has gone on the attack and as Huckabee has made a few unforced errors. Romney's aides suspect Huckabee's support in Iowa may have peaked, and they argue that their campaign's superior get-out-the-vote operation might be able to close the gap and help Romney prevail next week.
While Romney has fought Huckabee in Iowa, McCain has gained ground in New Hampshire and benefited from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's slippage in the polls. McCain won the Northeastern state's primary against Bush in 2000, and still is beloved by a large contingent of die-hard backers. He is putting almost all of his resources into New Hampshire and is essentially camping out there as he seeks a repeat win _ and a comeback after a near campaign implosion during the summer.
It is little surprise Romney is taking his criticism of McCain to the airwaves; he used the same approach against Huckabee earlier in Iowa.
As McCain has moved up in polls, Romney has sharpened his rhetoric against him. In recent days, Romney has accused McCain of "failing" to head the lessons of President Ronald Reagan by twice voting against major Bush administration tax cuts. He also has suggested the Arizona senator supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, although McCain has said he wants them to register with the government.
The new ad shows pictures of McCain and Romney and says: "There is a difference." It eviscerates McCain on taxes and immigration only to praise Romney's record on taxes and spending as Massachusetts governor and argue that he "opposes amnesty for illegals."
Taxes and immigration are trouble spots for McCain.
Some Republicans view him skeptically for breaking with Bush on taxes; he now says he supports extending the tax cuts because doing otherwise would amount to a tax increase. McCain also has been dogged by his support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes an eventual path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants; he now tells voters that he got the message earlier this year when one such bill failed in Congress and that the borders must be secured first.
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Associated Press Writer Holly Ramer in New Hampshire contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-31 06:19 GMT+08:00