by Rick Pearson
DES MOINES—It may be one of Iowa's first ever TV ads that wish people a Merry Christmas and then ends with the federally required disclaimer: "I approved this message."
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, are renewing their TV air war with each candidate putting up new ads to promote their campaigns.
Huckabee's is done in a Christmas-card like setting, in front of a decorated tree, the candidate wearing a red sweater and "Silent Night" playing in the background. Romney's ad attacks Huckabee's record in Arkansas on crime issues.
In his ad, Huckabee, a Baptist minister whose surge in the polls has relied heavily on backing from Christian conservatives, notes that at a time of heavy political commercials, "sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ."
"I hope that you and your family will have a magnificent Christmas season and on behalf of all of us, God Bless and Merry Christmas," Huckabee says, then adds the disclaimer, "I'm Mike Huckabee and I approved this message."
Romney, meanwhile, launched its second consecutive TV ad that takes on Huckabee's record as Arkansas governor. The first dealt with tuition policies for children of undocumented immigrants in Arkansas. The latest ad contends Huckabee reduced penalties for manufacturing methamphetamines and granted more clemencies than the three previous Arkansas governors combined—1,033 pardons and commutations, including 12 convicted murderers.
On the other hand, the ad notes Romney did not pardon anyone during his tenure as Massachusetts governor.
Huckabee's campaign noted that even with reductions in meth penalties, Arkansas law was still tougher than Massachusetts law. It also said that by law, all crimes are eligible for a clemency review.
Huckabee said he took seriously his obligation to review clemency petitions and denied 88 percent of the applications.
"Nevertheless," the campaign said, "we want to wish Gov. Romney, his family and his staff a very Merry Christmas."