GOP race turning vicious. Keep it up, guys.

Democratic candidates are usually eviscerating each other at this stage of the nomination process. That may still happen. But for now, the leading Republicans are in a feeding frenzy — and they are feeding on each other. It started earlier this week when McCain said Mitt was in a “tailspin.” Now Huckabee’s joining in and Mitt’s bearing the brunt. You really get the sense that Huckabee and McCain despise the phony Mitt as much, if not more, than we do:

In the last weekend before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican presidential candidates are bloodying the field with a blizzard of negative attacks, showing the strains of a wide-open and unpredictable race.

Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain are involved in what amounts to an elaborate pool-hall strategy that relies heavily on bank shots to win as their campaigns struggle for primacy both here and in New Hampshire.

Mr. Huckabee, after stumbling Friday over several statements about Pakistan, unloaded today on Mr. Romney.

“If a person is dishonest in his approach to get the job, do you believe he will be honest in telling you the truth when he does gets the job?” Mr. Huckabee said at a campaign stop in Osceola, Iowa.

This is really getting good and ugly. Mitt might actually have his hair knocked out of place — or he may have to get those five tough guy sons of his into some real hand-to-hand combat after all. There’s more after the break. Enjoy.

The GOPers really are in attack mode. So fun to watch:

And in an assist to Mr. McCain _ Mr. Huckabee would love for Mr. McCain to block Mr. Romney from winning in New Hampshire _ Mr. Huckabee added that he was escalating his attacks on Mr. Romney in part because Mr. Romney had the nerve to disparage Mr. McCain, “an American hero.”

“It is enough to attack me, but now to attack John McCain, it is like Mitt doesn’t have anything to stand on except to stand against, and I am saying enough is enough,” Mr. Huckabee declared.

In a bit of political jujitsu, Mr. Huckabee put out a commercial to that effect, saying of negative campaigning: “enough is enough” even as he slammed Mr. Romney. He also put out a spot highlighting Mr. Romney’s reversal of positions on abortion.

By contrast, the Democratic candidates were engaged in more polite campaigning, as Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Senator John Edwards fanned out across Iowa with last-minute appeals to turn out supports on caucus night this Thursday.

The Republican candidates are still bleeding over the Romney-McCain ad wars that flared Friday and released a barrage of new ads today. Mr. Romney lobbed an ad portraying Mr. McCain as soft on immigration, while Mr. McCain fired back with one quoting the Concord Monitor.

The strategy here is to shove Mr. Romney deeper into the ditch, allowing Mr. Huckabee to win Iowa and Mr. McCain to win New Hampshire. But whether Iowans will buy the negative force with which these three, but especially Mr. Huckabee, are confronting each other is unclear.

Mitt in a ditch is such a great visual. Do you think the guy has every really gotten his hands dirty?

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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