One benefit of being in a second tier candidate is that you’re not taken too seriously as a contender. That is, you can gripe about whatever you want, try to bring issues to the forefront of debate, and be more open and honest with answers, all without much negative media attention, except for the obligatory, “This guy’s got no chance.” Once you start to look serious, however, the media and your opponents swarm to dig up dirt on you. Mike Huckabee may be starting to wish his recent surge in the polls would have left him more time to prepare for the onslaught.

Huckabee is coming under criticism for the release of Wayne Dumond, a rapist who later killed two women. While he didn’t authorize clemency or the release, then-governor Huckabee did express his feelings that Dumond should be released, and, coincidentally or not, he was freed the next day. Politicians are certainly blamed too much and, likewise, given too much credit for things than happen under their watch – the president’s role in the health of the economy in his own administration is an obvious example – and it seems odd to blame a government official for the later actions of every supposedly rehabbed or possibly even innocent (a popular claim about Dumond) criminal. Whether Huckabee bears any responsibility, directly or indirectly, for the released convict’s later crimes, he will certainly be questioned extensively about it.

Perhaps more troubling for Huck’s campaign was his pleading ignorance to the newly released National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran’s nuclear program. When questioned, Huckabee asked for the question again, before stating that he had neither knowledge of nor opinion on the story that had been headlining the news. Such honesty may be refreshing, but it could amount to political catastrophe. Candidates are extremely busy – with the possible, or likely, exception of Fred Thompson – but with just weeks before primary season, they need to be aware of all developments that could have significant impacts on major national policies. Huckabee will have to quickly prove that the spotlight he finds himself in doesn’t make him look like a deer in headlights.

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