Bookshelf or Cross? Paul Is Dead?

Mike Huckabee’s latest ad should have been the least controversial ad of the campaign. That’s because it doesn’t cover any issues and it’s just Mike Huckabee doing what he does best: being warm and personable as he says that the Christmas season should be about the birth of Christ.

I’m sure this ad made for a nice contrast to the biting attacks that are being launched at Huckabee 24×7 by his rivals in the campaign.

However, there have been a lot of complaints over what has been called a “floating cross” in the ad.

Huckabee’s response to that was,

“If we are so politically correct in this country that a person can’t say enough of the nonsense with the political attack ads could we pause for a few days and say Merry Christmas to each other then we’re really, really in trouble as a country,” Huckabee said.

Catholic League president Bill Donahue said Huckabee went beyond wishing people a joyous holiday. Donahue said he was especially disturbed by the cross-like image created by a white bookcase in the background of the ad, saying he believed it was a subliminal message.

“What he’s trying to say to the evangelicals in western Iowa (is): I’m the real thing,” Donahue said Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends. “You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is.”

Huckabee said the bookshelf is just a bookshelf and shrugged off the controversy: “I will confess this: If you play the spot backwards it says, ‘Paul is dead. Paul is dead.'”

He was joking about the Beatles’ recording of “The White Album” and the urban legend that if a portion of the album is played backwards, the words “Paul is dead” is heard, a reference to the very much alive Paul McCartney.

Two things.

1) Did Huckabee know that there was a cross in the background when he did the video? Absolutely. Did his team deliberately try to create that effect in the video? Absolutely. That’s why they did the slow turn around the room — to create the cross in the background for a few moments.

2) Incidentally, #1 reveals Huckabee’s biggest problem: he has gotten to where he is because of his religious background and his charisma and he’s hoping that will be enough to catapult him to victory in a divided field.

He may be right about that, but the constant religious references have the potential to be more detrimental to him at this point than helpful because they’ve been so overdone that they’re coming across as exploitive.

Most conservative voters do want a presidential candidate who is a Christian, but they don’t want someone to become the candidate just because he’s a Christian.

There has to be a little wider appeal there and Huckabee would be wise to spend less time making religious references and more time trying to appeal to voters on foreign policy, immigration, and on issues of fiscal conservatism. If Huckabee wants to seal the deal in a race this competitive, he is going to have to expand his appeal and address the concerns people have about his electability in a general election, about his being too soft, and about his being a nannystater. At the moment, he doesn’t seem to be making a lot headway on that front.

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