We've told you before about the Club for Growth ads in Iowa clobbering Mike Huckabee as a tax-and-spender. The subject came up today in a chat with reporters, as CBS news noted:
The group has leveled the same criticisms against Huckabee in the past, but coming as it does before the Aug. 11 Republican straw poll in the state, the candidate told reporters in a conference call today that someone must be getting nervous. "Obviously, we're getting some traction," Huckabee said. "We're even finding that we're the target of some negative campaign attacks, and that's always a sign that you must be rattling somebody's cage and threatening somebody."
Huckabee, who said the criticisms are "filled with inaccuracies," would not share specifically his suspicions of who may be behind the ad but said, "I think it's got to be another candidate. I don't know that for sure but I can't imagine anyone else having such a vested interest, at this stage of the game just before the straw poll, than another candidate who realizes that we're gaining a substantial amount of momentum in Iowa."
Aw, come on Mike. You know better than that. Here's the back story, as told to me today by someone in a position to know.
Huckabee had recruited Madison Murphy, Jackson T. Stephens Jr. and Jim Walton a number of years ago to bankroll his Next Step foundation to work for education reform. Over time, it became clear that Huckabee's aim was more about the governor's political advancement than the sweeping reform the barons had envisioned.
Anyway, along the way, another important issue came up. At a Mansion meeting brokered by Jay Dickey, Huckabee met with Stephens, heir to part of the Stephens Inc. fortune. Stephens, who had toyed with the idea of running for governor, was backing an initiative to remove all the sales tax on groceries. Huckabee promised him he would not be actively involved in the issue. Then he reneged. He came out -- commendably -- against the ruinous proposal. If we had to guess, we'd put DFA boss Richard Weiss at the top of the list of suspects who helped convince Huckabee that his weight was needed in opposition to a government-crippling idea. The initiative failed by a huge margin. Stephens never forgave Huckabee for breaking his word. Stephens is a major supporter of the Club for Growth. Follow the dots.