The Pastor and the Brawler

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So Mike Huckabee has brought on Ed Rollins to be his national campaign chairman. There are two things to note about this development. First, in Rollins Huckabee gets a heavyweight political operative who knows how to run and win a national political campaign. Rollins was political director to Ronald Reagan in Reagan’s first term and ran Reagan’s landslide, 49-state re-election victory in 1984. Huckabee is sending the message that he does not intend to win Iowa and then fade away. He is in it to win it. But bringing on Rollins sends a second message — that while Huckabee is selling himself as Mr. Sunshine on the trail, an above-the-fray healer who is not a member of the nasty politics-as-usual crowd, he’s just hired one of the toughest and nastiest political operatives the modern GOP has ever known. In addition to his Reagan pedigree, Rollins was a principal on Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign. The next year he earned himself both infamy and a grand jury investigation when he boasted to reporters that he had engineered Christie Todd Whitman’s razor-thin victory in the New Jersey governor’s race by paying off African American ministers to help suppress the black vote. Rollins partially recanted. But he makes no apologies about his style of politics. The title of his autobiography: Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms: My Life in American Politics.

So here’s predicting that if Rollins plays an active role in the campaign, Huckabee’s going to start giving as good as he gets, and not just when he’s musing about religions he doesn’t understand.