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Fred Moves to Iowa

He'll be living there from Dec. 17 through the caucuses, minus a one-day trip to Virginia for Christmas, looking for at least a third-place finish behind Huckabee and Romney:

Beginning Monday, December 17, Thompson will launch a bus tour that will take him throughout the state...

"Iowa is critical to our campaign, and it may in fact be everything to our campaign," says one Thompson official. "If we don't do what we need to do in Iowa, it will be tough to compete effectively down the road."

Which begs the question: Why doesn't he just start living there today instead of waiting a week?

Thompson has said publicly that he needs to finish in the top three in Iowa. Campaign officials say that a strong third place finish--presumably behind new frontrunner Mike Huckabee and former frontrunner Mitt Romney--would likely give them enough momentum to survive New Hampshire and compete in South Carolina and beyond. A second place finish would be a victory. "Just when the interest is there the greatest, is when we'll be here the most."

Fred's also piling on Huckabee, with good reason, hitting him for his ignorance of the NIE and offering up this delicious quote:
"These are the kinds of things I've been talking about all of my life. Now, if the American people have other priorities, if they want someone who smiles a lot more than I do, or someone who is a better quipster than I am, who has no experience in these areas, that's for the American people to decide."
Fred's tone indicates what he and many pundits are thinking about Huckabee lately-- that the governor may be a man of immense charm who's good at covering the fact that he doesn't always know what he's talking about, and has benefited until now from the generous press coverage reserved for a smooth talker without a shot at the nomination. The litany of Huckabee stories from this week-- isolating AIDS patients, the release of Dumond despite alleged warnings against it, the Gitmo flip-flop, missing the NIE, and mixing up the defunct INS and the ICE in his immigration report-- seem to back him up.

And, the hits just keep on comin'.

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Being a preacher is a double-edged sword for a politician on a national level. Sure, he's gifted at speechifying, but then someone pulls up a quote from 1998 in which the governor sounds perhaps a bit too much like a preacher for the national press. "Take this nation back for Christ" is pretty standard pastor-speak (well, if you have an enthusiastic pastor), and likely doesn't faze too many in Arkansas. In 1998, Huckabee used this phrase in reference to recent school shootings, which is unfortunately reminiscent of Falwell's and Robertson's much reviled
post-9/11 conversation about God removing his protection from our nation.

Of course, given the religious messaging Huckabee's been using to his advantage, one wonders if this story will help or hurt. Interestingly, the story Drudge links also includes this uncharacteristic bit of fiscal-con-friendly Huck-speak:
"I'm often asked why taxes are so high and government is so big. It's because the faith we have in local churches has become so small. If we'd been doing what we should have -- giving a dime from every dollar to help the widows, the orphans and the poor -- we now wouldn't be giving nearly 50 cents of every dollar to a government that's doing ... what we should have been doing all along."
Update: Oh, and Huckabee was for lifting the Cuban embargo before he was against it while addressing the Spanish-language debate audience last night.

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