by Max Brantley
Blowback has begun on Mike Huckabee's all-out play for the evangelical vote. Across cable last night, multiple commentators saw his "I'm-a-Christian" ad as a transparent knock on Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post puts it sharply this morning in a tough column.
What could be called "The Huckabee Moment" occurred Sunday morning when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked the former Arkansas governor, suddenly and ominously the front-runner in Iowa's GOP contest, whether Mitt Romney is a Christian. Mike Huckabee knew precisely what was being asked of him, and he also knew, because he is a preacher, what the right -- not the clever, mind you -- answer should be. But Huckabee merely smiled that wonderful smile of his and punted.
... The reason I started with Stephanopoulos is that he provided the perfect opportunity for Huckabee to make some ringing statement in support of religious tolerance. ... Instead, he said Romney had to answer for himself the question of whether he's a Christian. ... But as he well knew, it is not his surprisingly moderate record as governor of Arkansas that so attracts Iowa's conservative Christian voters, it's his obdurate and narrow-minded religious beliefs.
... It is absurd that Romney feels compelled to deliver a speech defending his beliefs and that Huckabee does not have to explain how, in this day and age, he does not believe in evolution.
... The Republican presidential field has some feeble minds and some dangerous ones as well, but none has done as much damage as Huckabee has. ...
....Inevitably, Romney's speech will be compared to JFK's. But when it comes to being beholden to a religious doctrine, it is Huckabee and not Romney who has some explaining to do. What's more, Huckabee is the one who is capitalizing on religious intolerance. He says he's a Christian leader, but the evidence proves otherwise. He's really a shameless follower.
ALSO TODAY: Huckabee had his turn today on Don Imus. Religion questions predominated. Imus liked Huckabee, despite his artful dodges.