(CBS) Sen. Barack Obama said Sunday that, regardless of whom the Democratic Party nominates for president, the Republicans will launch a negative attack campaign because, he said, their party has little positive on which to run.
"My suspicion is that the Republican National Committee is going to be targeting any Democratic nominee," the Senator from Illinois told CBS's Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. "I'm sure that there will be a lot of negative ads out there. They don't have much to run on, given what's happened over the last seven to eight years. So there's no doubt that there will be negativity."
Negativity has become an issue within the Democratic primaries, as frontrunners Obama and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have jostled for position in the key early states.
In Iowa, Obama told reporters that he is the most "electable" of Democrats, arguing that Republicans would not automatically rally against him in the way that they have rallied against Hillary Clinton and her husband, and consequently he would accomplish more in a bipartisan way.
"The difference, I think, is I attract more Republicans and independents," he said.
"One of the things I'm seeing is that it's not just Democrats, but it's Republicans and independents who have also lost trust in how our government has functioned. They're concerned about profligate spending on things that aren't our priorities. They're concerned about the fact that we have a foreign policy that has diminished our standing around the world. They're concerned about inefficiencies: Katrina didn't just upset Democrats, it upset Republicans as well.
"And so we've got a chance, potentially, to bring in people who have seen the philosophy of George Bush and Dick Cheney not serve the country well and are, I think, willing to consider new approaches."
In fact, his criticism of Clinton was somewhat back-handed, seemingly aimed at Republicans who have targeted both Clintons in the past.
"I actually think that Senator Clinton is a capable, solid senator from New York," he said. "But because of the history of some of the battles that have taken place back in the '90s, it is true that she tends to galvanize the other side."
He also sidestepped commenting on remarks by President Bill Clinton, who earlier this week said that voters would hold Obama's lack of foreign policy experience against him.
“Well, look, I don't begrudge Bill Clinton helping his wife - my wife is helping me," Obama said. "And I understand that he's loyal to her and wants to make sure that she can put the best face forward on the campaign… [but] much of the criticism he's leveling at me is identical to the criticism that was leveled against him when he was running against George H.W. Bush.”
Obama said, despite Bill Clinton’s star power, voters in Iowa will not automatically gravitate toward Hillary Clinton. "They respect her very much, but what people here in Iowa consistently tell me is they're looking for something different. They're looking for something new. They want to turn the page."
"People want to see the next president bring people together, push back the influence of special interests and lobbyists, talk straight with the American people, and get things done. And how we've been running our campaign, I think, is the same way we want to govern.
"I may have disagreements with Republicans, but I don't want to polarize and demonize those folks. I want to see if we can bring them in, into a working majority, to actually deliver on health care and education and the new energy policy, and foreign policy that can repair some of the damage that's been done.
"So the message was really one of what I can bring to the table, as opposed to what others can't."
He also spoke skeptically of the President's Iraq policy, despite White House claims that the "surge" in U.S. troop levels have succeeded.
"George Bush's own premise was that as a consequence of the surge, we would give breathing room to the Iraqis to start negotiating and to stabilize the political situation there," Obama said. "I was skeptical of [that], and continue to be.
"I am glad that the violence has gone down. But keep in mind, Bob, that we have essentially gone full circle. We had intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government back in 2006; we saw a huge spike in violence, to horrific levels. The surge comes in and now we're back to where we were in 2006, with intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional Iraqi government.
"If we want to stabilize the situation in Iraq over the long term, then we have to trigger different behavior among the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions and get them to come to an agreement on how they're going to govern. And that has not happened.
"The only way, I believe, to trigger that different attitude is going to be if we announce a phased, careful, responsible redeployment. And that's what I've proposed consistently."
Huckabee Defends Faith-Based Campaign Ads
Former Arkansas Governor Michael Huckabee denied accusations that the former Baptist preacher is running a religiously-themed campaign, or is targeting his campaign to a religious audience rather than all American voters.
He told Schieffer that he is running to be president of all America. "That's how I served as governor. People look at my record and they didn't see that I put a tent out on the capitol grounds and had healing services, and I didn't replace the dome with a steeple.
"I governed; we improved education. We rebuilt the road system. We brought health care to children who didn't have it. We reformed the welfare system. Those were the things that I focused on as governor. And when people take a look at that, they're going to see that it was my faith that drove me to care about things like hunger and poverty and the people that didn't have anybody out there, advocating for them. Real faith does that for you. It makes you concerned about everybody with a sense of equality. You don't give preference to the rich or preference to the poor. You give a sense of an unvarnished concern for every single person."
He also denied that there was a hidden message in the recent ad, in which a Christian cross appeared over his shoulder, formed by a partially-obscured bookcase. "Everyone thought that we were so smart and clever. The truth is, it was a book shelf. We hurriedly put the spot together. It wasn't scripted. I ad-libbed the spot. It was done at the end of a long taping day, and really kind of a thought of, well, let's do a Christmas spot just in case we decide to use it maybe on our Web site, maybe for broadcast, but probably just for the Web site."
Huckabee, who is currently leading in many polls against the other leading contenders, former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said his recent rise in the polls may be surprising only to pundits, such as those writing for the Weekly Standard and the National Review, who recently wrote that a Huckabee nomination would be "national suicide" for the Republicans, and that his positions "on every issue save for abortion and gay marriage," he is "dramatically out of step with the Republican Party."
"I think that there is almost a disconnect between what I have called the sort of the chattering class of the East Coast and the real America," he said. "And you see this when you go to places like Iowa, or for that matter take any place in America, and get away from the bubble of the Beltway. And you find that what people are talking about and what they're concerned about is very different than what you see from the talking heads. Maybe I pose a threat to those folks.”
Like Obama, Huckabee described himself as an agent of change for his party. “I am a Republican. And I am out to change the Republican Party. It needs changing. It needs to be inclusive of all those people across America for whom this party should stand.”
Schieffer asked about Huckabee's criticism of George Bush, such as calling his foreign policy "arrogant."
"You know, sometimes we forget that in the middle of the washing machine is the agitator and it shakes the dirt loose," he said.
"I'm not running for George Bush's third term. I love the president. I've been one of his staunchest supporters. I didn't just come around to it recently. But at the same time, Bob, I think our party needs to be honest with the American people. Let's say where we agree, but let's also have the candor to talk about where we would be different and how we would lead this country."
Among the policies Huckabee discussed is tax reform, suggesting that income taxes be replaced with a consumption tax, which would automatically raise the cost of goods, like a new car, an estimated 23 percent.
“First of all, realize that [with no income tax] you go to buy that car with your entire paycheck with no deductions. Secondly, that car no longer will have the 22 percent embedded tax that is built in, with corporate tax and all of the cost of compliance. So the tax rate is 23 percent, but that's 10 percent less than the 33 percent that the average American pays right now.
"The trouble is, the average American doesn't even know how much tax he pays, because it's all hidden,” he said.
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