SNEAK PEEK: 'Poppin' the Cris'


3 Days Until the Iowa Caucuses

It's hard to believe that we still are not even in the calendar year of the next presidential election, given how long the candidates have been campaigning and how long the pundits have been handicapping and speculating.

At the stroke of midnight, 2008 will finally be here. But before the corks are popped on the Dom P, Veuve Clicquot or Andre's (depending on how much your campaign raised in the fourth quarter), let's take a quick look back to see how far the Republican field has come in 365 days.

Last year at this time, the Republican field looked like this in an ABC News/Washington Post poll:

Rudy Giuliani – 34

John McCain – 26

Newt Gingrich – 12

Mitt Romney – 5

Mike Huckabee (who?) – 0

What a difference a year makes.

The latest ABC News poll showed a tighter, more spread out race with some new faces gaining significant support:

Giuliani – 25

Huckabee – 19

Romney – 17

Thompson – 14

McCain – 12

Who would have thought on this day last year that Mike Huckabee would be the frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses – or that the caucuses would come so soon after New Years?

After days of "polite contrast" ads running against him courtesy of the Romney campaign, and his own admission that Romney's attacks have hurt him in the polls in Iowa, Huckabee seemed poised to fight fire with fire and release his own attack ad.

But something funny happened on the way to the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines.

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports that the former Arkansas governor announced at a press conference that he had changed his mind and wasn't going to launch a negative ad against Romney after all. LINK

Tapper reports: "Huckabee now says he will run a positive campaign, even though he's been calling Romney 'dishonest' since Friday, spoke to the press surrounded by placards slamming Romney, and has a passage on his website comparing Romney to Seinfeld's lying friend George Costanza."

"It's never too late to do the right thing," Huckabee told reporters.

In a move that had reporters scratching their heads, Huckabee then showed the anti-Romney ad – the one he said he wouldn't run on television.

So what did that ad say? Per Tapper:

HUCKABEE: I'm Mike Huckabee and I approved this spot because Iowans have the right to know the truth about Mitt Romney's dishonest attacks on me and even an American hero, John McCain.

NARRATOR: Romney's record? Over 700 million in new taxes. Left office with a deficit. No executions. Supported gun control. And Romney's government-mandate health plan provided a $50 co-pay for abortion.

HUCKABEE: If a man's dishonest to obtain a job, he'll be dishonest on the job. Iowans deserve better.

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports that instead of that ad Huckabee will go up with two positive ads – one in Iowa on tax cuts and one in New Hampshire on "values."

It may be New Year's Eve but some campaigns may be too superstitious to pop open bottles of champagne. With the race as tight as it is, the candidates have largely refrained from answering the expectations and win/place/show questions (except for Fred Thompson, who must be instilling huge amounts of confidence in his supporters when he said Sunday he wants and needs to place second. Thompson clearly has never heard the idea that second place is really just the first loser.)

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