And … We’re Negative!

The Romney campaign breaks the ice with the first intra-party attack ad ofthe GOP race, “The Choice.” The spot pits Romney against newly crowned Iowa front-runner Mike Huckabee—the latest Iowapoll puts him at 32 percent to Romney’s 20—on what many people considerHuckabee’s soft spot: immigration.

It starts off with their similarities: “Two former governors.Two good family men. Both pro-life. Both support a federal marriage amendmentbanning gay marriage.” (Notice how it puts Romney’s pro-life bona fides on par with Huckabee’s.)

Then the ad sets up what you expect to be a direct contrast:”Mitt Romney stood up and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens; opposeddrivers’ licenses for illegals. Mike Huckabee supported in-state tuition benefitsfor illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded scholarshipsfor illegal aliens.”

Wait, what about that driver’s license thing? This issupposed to be a contrast ad—you expect it to say, “Huckabee even supportedlicenses for illegals,” or something like that. Why pull that punch?

Probably because it’s a weak claim. A few blogs out there link to a 2001 piece from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporting that Huckabee supported a bill that would have allowed licenses forillegal immigrants. But the issue hasn’t come up in debates, nor have the opposingcampaigns run with it.

So if Romney doesn’t have a good case against Huckabee onthe licenses issue, why bring it up at all? Well, that much is obvious: It’s easier to say it without saying it than to actually say it.

The Huckabee campaign responds here .