From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike and NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
LE MARS, Iowa -- On the same day the Romney campaign releases a contrast ad with McCain, he is up with another, similarly structured ad contrasting himself with Huckabee. Similar to the McCain ad, an announcer speaks over ominous music, attacking Huckabee on being "soft on government spending" and "1033 pardons and commutations."
Then another announcer, above hopeful music, touts Romney's accomplishments and depicts him as a traditional, hard-nosed Republican. "Mitt Romney held spending down, below inflation. Cut taxes. Zero pardons. The difference? Strong leadership?"
The ad also lambastes Huckabee for supporting in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants and granting more than 1,000 pardons and commutations as governor.
But the spot takes one other swipe at Huckabee on a matter that is of resurging importance in light of recent events on the international stage with the following target: "His foreign policy? 'Ludicrous,' says Condoleezza Rice."
What's interesting about that, however, is that there is actually no contrast on foreign matters offered in the ad. And in the campaign's press release announcing the commercial, there's no backup that bolsters Romney on the issue. Romney hasn't been invoking Huckabee's name on the stump today in Iowa, however.
The McCain and Romney campaigns worked through e-mails to reporters during the day, dueling about which camp is more on the attack with their media strategies.