In a new television ad debuting today in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee does the unthinkable — he wishes early voters "Merry Christmas."
Wearing a red sweater and standing before a glowing Christmas tree as "Silent Night" plays in the background, the former Arkansas governor asks viewers if they're "about worn out of all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics."
Behind Huckabee appears to be a white cross, which may be intersecting shelf lines or a window pane, and slowly moves to the right on the screen until it's behind his head.
"At this time of year, sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ," says the ordained Baptist minister, who has been riding a wave of evangelical support with his open religious appeals.
"I hope you and your family have a magnificent Christmas season. God bless you and Merry Christmas."
Meanwhile, Romney launched a new TV ad yesterday slamming Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor, for commuting the sentences of 1,033 criminals - including 12 convicted murderers. "Huckabee granted more clemencies than the previous three governors combined," says the 30-second Romney attack ad.
"The difference between us is that I did something he never had to do. I carried out the death penalty 16 times, more than any other governor in my state's history," Huckabee told reporters in Los Angeles before attending a Beverly Hills fundraiser. "That's hardly soft on crime when you make that tough decision and actually carry it out."
Romney's state of Massachusetts does not have capital punishment.
Not surprisingly, he sounded Monday as if he wanted to declare a holiday truce among the Republican presidential contenders.
"I think the country could use a little good will and peace on earth a little more than they can some tit for tat in the political arena," Huckabee said.
The New York Post and Associated Press Contributed to this report.