by Max Brantley
IN THE LEAD: The respected Des Moines Register poll has Huckabee comfortably in the lead in Iowa. Also Obama. Zogby has it Huckabee and Clinton. And the national press begins to get it: Iowa isn't likely to decide the nomination for either Democrats or Republicans. And, if we're lucky, this will be the last year for the premier stage for the strange Iowa exercise and the inflated worth given a process that caters mostly to a small cadre of dedicated extremes in both parties.
THAT NEWS CONFERENCE: From CBS blog:
We've all seen some very cheap stunts over the years, but they're not usually this cheap and not this transparent. Reporters covering the campaign aren't idiots, and Huckabee just insulted their intelligence.
Question: Are Iowa voters equally offended? Bet not. Still, when NY Times quotes an expert saying of the candidate, "not ready for prime time," it will have some resonance. Dana Milbank: "oddest news conference of the election season."
HEEEERE'S MIKE: Washington Post coverage is unflattering of Huckabee's ad episode and suggests earlier ad efforts weren't so slick either. But think how much you've heard about this and Chuck Norris and the Cross and the Christmas Tree, not to mention how often they've been aired for free and viewed by millions. The Post notes that Huckabee is doing the unheard of by leaving Iowa Wednesday to fly to California for an appearance on Jay Leno. I think it's more genius. Many more Iowans will see him on the Tonight show than he could possibly meet by barnstorming from Sioux City to Dubuque. Who needs a campaign staff or money when there's free media available galore?
SWIFT BOATERS FOR ROMNEY: LA Times examines the source of money behind "independent" advertising against Huckabee. Players in the Swift Boat saga are in the mix. Article also notes Keith Emis, the young Arkansas Republican who developed a powerful ad about Huckabee's work to free the killer Wayne Dumond, has picked up some financial support to air his ad in South Carolina. NY Times notes that, generally, independent expenditures are becoming the runaway freight train of campaign finance.
SOFT ON IRAN: Huckabee's views on foreign affairs get some attention in the Boston Globe. When he's not being sophomoric -- for example, urging Americans to attend more cultural festivals -- he's angering many Republicans by urging dialogue with Iran. He's right about that, by the way.