Huckabee supporters galore. | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Huckabee supporters galore.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2008 at 6:41 PM

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Sam Eifling photo

Before Huckabee jetted out to the West Coast, I managed to catch him this morning at Chicago Dawg, a restaurant in Mason City, two hours north of Des Moines. With his usual humor and smooth speaking voice, Huckabee showed yet again why many people are inclined to support him over Mitt Romney. His style speaks authenticity, while Romney’s speaks automaton opportunist.

As for content, Huckabee stuck to the stump speech he gave at Huck/Chuck last night, albeit with fewer jokes about snuffing the neighbor who wants to vote for someone else. The speech usually contains a personal anecdote – this morning it was about helping a schoolboy in Dermott – before Huckabee gets to his talking points: FairTax, energy independence, the border fence, a veterans bill of rights, the “fight for human life” (i.e., no abortion), and the sanctity of marriage. He’s also ramping up the bit about “the chattering classes of political pundits on the East Coast,” as well as claiming he’s the underdog in the race.

The rhetorical populism definitely helps him, but most of the supporters I’ve talked to are supporting him because of the bread and butter Christian conservative issues. One couple I talked to last night said they picked him because of faith, and that Romney’s Mormonism turned them off. They also said they didn’t know so much about his foreign policy stances. Another woman at the Mason City event said she was backing Huckabee for religious reasons as well (although she also mentioned that she wished he would talk more about Israel!)

Lest my personal coolness toward the candidate lead you to believe otherwise, the supporters are coming out in large numbers. Last night Huck announced there were 2,000 people: while that might have been a bit of a stretch, there were clearly a lot. And this morning the restaurant – not a huge place, but not a cell either – was packed to capacity. Arkansans are coming too: I met one volunteer from Northwest Arkansas who said she was there with 15 other people. Tim Hutchinson appeared at the event today.

Later in the afternoon I stopped by Huckabee’s Des Moines headquarters, where a few tables are set up in the lobby with student volunteers. Access beyond that is barred, but the guy I talked to was friendly – he mentioned that the campaign had 2000 200 volunteers upstairs, and that Huckabee is planning to hold his “victory celebration” at the Embassy Suites tomorrow.

It was a different situation when I tried to talk to a couple of Huckabee volunteers, though. As I was leaving I ran into man with a British accent who I took to be a political tourist. No, he said – he was a Huckabee volunteer come all the way from London(!). He and his American wife were very pleasant and were very eager to chat, but they wanted to go inside the headquarters and out of the cold. When we started to talk, a bubbly young staffer approached and asked what we were doing. Talking. Obviously. But volunteers are not allowed to talk about Huckabee in the Huckabee space, apparently, until the request has been ok’d by some opaque higher-up. So we had a stilted conversation about politics in general until we got our clearance.

The couple, it turns out, run what they said is the largest Christian events website in the UK, www.christianevents.co.uk. They said they first found out about Huckabee in April and were instantly sucked in – they never really got into Thompson – because they felt he authentically represented conservative values. They said they were attracted to all of his positions, including the FairTax and his “peace through strength” foreign policy. They clearly knew the candidate and loved him. (Although, strangely, the British man couldn’t recall the “Freedom” part of Huckabee’s “Faith, Family, Freedom” motto when he tried to recite it. Which I think says more about the mind-numbing nature of political language than about the man’s memory.)  

You know to take Huckabee’s chances seriously when he’s got supporters volunteering their time from overseas. We’ll see if he can command the same volunteer support in New Hampshire and beyond.

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