Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is striking back at rival Mitt Romney over the issue of clemency for people with criminal records.
Romney has been questioning Huckabee’s decision to grant over 1000 commutations when Huckabee was governor of Arkansas. Huckabee spoke to supporters crammed into a meeting room at a West Des Moines shopping mall late this afternoon and Huckabee told the crowd he wanted to set the record straight.
"My opponent saw 100 requests come to his desk in the entire time he was governor. I saw 8700 come to mine…and 90 percent of ’em I denied," Huckabee said.
According to Huckabee, "many" of the clemencies he granted were filed by "35-year-old single moms" who wanted to work in nursing homes or day cares, but couldn’t get hired with a criminal past that involved things like writing "hot checks" when they were teens. "I think those are good decisions and I stand by them," Huckabee said.
Huckabee went on to lob criticism Romney’s way over a commutation Romney refused to grant to an Iraq war veteran who at the age of 13 shot a friend in the arm with a BB gun — a juvenile charge that prevented the man from becoming a policeman. Huckabee suggested Romney’s decision was a "smart political" move but the wrong choice.
"My opponent, even though it was twice recommended by the parole board, twice said no to that request. Here’s a young man who made a mistake when he was 13," Huckabee said. "Now, you will have to just decide whether or not you believe that we ought to make decisions based on our own political futures or on the future of some guy who’s gone and went to war for this country."
Huckabee also ridiculed Romney’s level of campaign spending, telling the crowd he’d been outspent by Romney 20 to one. "If I had that much money, that many consultants, that many employees, that many different headquarters, that much paraphernalia — I might be as far behind as he is," Huckabee said, to laughter and applause from the crowd.
A spokesman for Romney says Romney’s record on crime during his time as governor of Massachusetts is in "stark contrast" to Huckabee’s decisions to pardon or commute the sentences of 12 "convicted murderers."
Romney hosted a holiday party for about 1400 supporters at a West Des Moines hotel this evening.