On Thursday night he told reporters in Orlando, Fla.: “We ought to have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there’s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country.”
On Friday, in Pella, Iowa, he expanded on those remarks.
“When I say single them out I am making the observation that we have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities except those immediately south of the border,” he told reporters in Pella. “And in light of what is happening in Pakistan it ought to give us pause as to why are so many illegals coming across these borders.”
In fact, far more illegal immigrants come from the Philippines, Korea, China and Vietnam, according to recent estimates from the Department of Homeland Security.
Asked how a border fence would help keep out Pakistani immigrants, Mr. Huckabee argued that airplane security was already strong, but that security at the southern United States border was dangerously weak.
“The fact is that the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds, it’s about someone coming with a shoulder-fired missile,” he said.
The sudden emergency in Pakistan and Mr. Huckabee’s response come at a time when he has come under increasing scrutiny from opponents for his lack of fluency in foreign policy issues, and the situation in Pakistan appeared to have challenged him.
“We have seen what happens in the Musharraf government,” Mr. Huckabee said on MSNBC. “He has told us he does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists. But on the other hand, did he not want us going in, so what do we do?” Those borders are actually on the west, not the east.
Further, he offered an Orlando crowd his “apologies for what has happened in Pakistan.” His aides said later that he meant to say “sympathies.” He also said he was worried about martial law “continuing” in Pakistan, although Mr. Musharraf lifted the state of emergency on Dec. 15. His campaign told CBS News that his statement was not a blunder.
Mr. Huckabee “firmly believes that emergency rule/martial law in Pakistan, as a practical matter, should not be viewed as having been completely lifted until the restrictions imposed during that period on the press and judges are removed,” adding that Mr. Musharraf’s “overall policy” is repressive.
So that’s the Republican side of the ledger. On the Democratic side, the sniping between Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards is picking up.
Mr. Obama’s Web site says that Mr. Edwards’s harsh, anti-corporate, anti-lobbyist rhetoric these days is in stark contrast to his approach earlier this year, which was more conciliatory.
In February, the Web site says, Mr. Edwards said of the health-care debate: “I think you try to bring everybody to the table. You want their participation, you want to make the system work for everybody.”
Today, he scorns the idea that everyone can sit at the same table and find an equitable solution.
“If you think we can have universal health care by talking with the insurance companies and the drug companies, it will never happen,” he says in a YouTube video. “These people have billions of dollars at stake. There’s one way to take their power away from them. That’s to beat ‘em. Take them on head on and beat ‘em.”
Mr. Edwards continues to ratchet up his attacks on corporate interests. In remarks prepared for delivery today in Iowa, he declares: “The promise of America is being threatened by lobbyists and their corporate clients who have taken over our government and sold out the middle class.”
While the rhetoric may have shifted, the polls suggest it was a smart move. His intensely populist approach has helped carry Mr. Edwards into a three-way tie with Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The populist approach also no doubt fuels his workers on the ground here as they walk door to door on his behalf. The tightening in the polls and his obvious ground organization have led pundits to suggest that he could be in a position to win here. The question for him is what’s next.
Perhaps the best sign that Mr. Edwards is “rising,” as his campaign slogan has it, is that Mr. Obama is starting to criticize him by name. He says that Mr. Edwards’s suggestion that corporate interests would not have a seat at the table is unrealistic.
The Edwards campaign is firing right back. It has mailed around flyers of a reprint of a column by Paul Krugman of The New York Times in which Mr. Krugman calls Mr. Obama naïve.
Mrs. Clinton appears to have clammed up for now, taking no questions on the trail while both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama are holding several media availabilities. She spent the morning filming a two-minute message that she has bought time to broadcast on all the news channels the night of the caucuses.