An ad by Romney strains the facts in attempting to portray a stark contrast between him and Huckabee.
The ad says both Romney and Huckabee are "pro-life," which is true now but glosses over Romney's recent conversion.
The ad says "the difference" between the two is that Romney "vetoed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants" while Huckabee supported it. But Romney's immigrant-bashing stance is also recent. In 2004 he said, "I hate the idea" of making college unaffordable for children of illegal immigrants.
The ad began airing throughout Iowa this week. In form it is a straightforward "comparative" ad, focusing on the two candidates' stands on the issues. But the picture it presents is the result of some political Photoshopping. The result: an ad whose contrasts are far sharper than we see in real life.
In it, an announcer lauds former Massachusetts Gov. Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee as "two good family men" who are "both pro-life" and oppose same-sex marriage. It says "the difference" between the two is on immigration, reminding voters that Huckabee supported in-state tuition rates for children of undocumented immigrants, and stating that Romney vetoed a similar bill in Massachusetts.
Choice: The Record
Mitt Romney: I'm Mitt Romney and I approved this message.
Announcer: Two former governors…two good family men…Both pro-life…both support a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage…
Mitt Romney stood up, and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens…opposed driver's licenses for illegals.
Mike Huckabee? Supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded scholarships for illegal aliens.
On immigration, the choice matters.
The Minister and the Convert
The ad presents a too-sharp focus at the start when it implies that Romney and Huckabee have identical records on abortion.
Announcer: Two former governors … two good family men … Both pro-life.
It's true that both Huckabee and Romney oppose abortion – now. But Huckabee was pro-life while he was governor. Romney, not so much. Don't take our word for it. Here's Romney at a September debate in Iowa:
Romney: I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. I've said that time and time again. I've changed my position.
We don't begrudge Romney the right to change his mind, and he's been open about the fact that his position has changed. But many Iowa voters may still be unaware of that, and this ad implies that there's no difference between these two candidates on abortion. That's a stretch.
Let Them Pick Lettuce
The second half of the ad contrasts the positions of the two on immigration:
Announcer: Mitt Romney stood up, and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens … opposed driver's licenses for illegals. Mike Huckabee? Supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded scholarships for illegal aliens.
It's true, as we pointed out previously, that a plan Huckabee supported would have granted in-state tuition rates and eligibility for scholarships to any student who had attended an Arkansas public high school for at least three years, regardless of immigration status. It's also true that Romney vetoed a similar bill in 2004. But Romney's illegal immigrant bashing is of fairly recent vintage.
In 2004, the Boston Globe reported that Romney was reluctant to veto the tuition proposal – and not at all the certain, sure-footed decision maker portrayed in the ad. At the time, Romney said:
Romney (June 2004): I hate the idea of in any way making it more difficult for kids, even those who are illegal aliens, to afford college in our state. But equally, perhaps a little more than equally, I do not want to create an incentive to do something which is illegal.
Romney wasn't a hardliner on immigration until late in his tenure as governor. As we have written, he took no action to punish the "sanctuary cities" that he now rails against. And while he boasts that he authorized state troopers to enforce federal immigration law, that order came at the end of his term, never went into effect and was overturned by his successor.
None of the specifics presented here are false, but the ad presents a black-and-white contrast that doesn't exist in reality.
Arkansas 85th General Assembly, Session 1. "HB1525: Access to PostSecondary Education Act of 2005."
"Chapter 149 of the Acts of 2004." 25 June 2004. The 185th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 11 December 2007.
Greenberger, Scott S. and Raphael Lewis. "Romney vetoes $108.5m in budget." Boston Globe 26 June 2004.