From NBC's Mark Murray, NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy and NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
DES MOINES, Iowa -- In what has to be one of the most bizarre political press conferences in recent times, Huckabee told a packed room of reporters that he was pulling a negative TV ad his campaign had produced to respond to Romney's attacks.
"The cookie cutter approach says you get hit, you hit back," Huckabee told the reporters, adding, "I think that the Washington way often has been effective. But there may be a better way, and I hope that we can prove that's exactly the case."
Then -- via a laptop projector -- he showed the ad anyway to the several dozen journalists in the room.
Adding to the spectacle, the sound of the ad didn't work for several minutes -- until the press got to hear it one time. The ad, which his campaign said cost $30,000 to produce, begins with Huckabee speaking to the viewer. "I'm Mike Huckabee, and I approve this message, because Iowans have a right to know the truth about Mitt Romney's dishonest attacks on me and even an American hero, John McCain."
Then an announcer takes over. "Romney's record? Over $700 million in new taxes. Left office with a deficit. No executions. Supported gun control. And Romney's government mandated health plan provided a $50 co-pay for abortion."
Huckabee has the last word. "If a man is dishonest to obtain a job, he'll on the job," he says in the ad. "Iowans deserve better."
"Hopefully, this is an ad that you will see just in this room," he told the reporters.
Asked why he would announce he's pulling a negative ad -- but show it anyway -- Huckabee replied, "If I didn't show it, you'd say I never had [the ad]."
On his decision to pull the ad, Huckabee added, "If it hurts me, it hurts me... I'm taking a risk here. I know I am. If it completely makes it so he pulls away in a dramatic way, then I'll probably be the last guy to ever do this. But I'd like to be the first one to ever try.
"Thursday night, I will let you know if it was smart."