As a fiery election season promises only to up the ante come Thursday, Mike Huckabee, the affable Baptist pastor turned governor of Arkansas, has overcome a dwarfed campaign budget by meeting Iowa voters one at a time.
The most recent Iowa poll puts Huckabee atop the Republican bout for the ticket, leaving former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney fighting to climb in popularity, despite having 20 times the campaign budget. And a third place Sen. John McCain seems to have overlooked the state that kick-starts the national election. Others like Rudy Giulliani are nothing more than afterthoughts among the GOP crowds we’ve seen.
Where expensive ad campaigns, junk mail, phone calls and e-mails buffet the Iowan voting population, supporters of Huckabee, largely Christian fundamentalists and economic conservatives, say money can’t buy their love.
Bill Johnson, of Cedar Rapids Iowa, came to a Huckabee stump in his town only “90 percent sure” the Huckster had his vote. After what appeared to be an extemporaneous concert, where the band played classics like “Mustang Sally” and “Blue Suede Shoes” to huge applause, Johnson was sold.
“Definitely 100 percent now,” he said at the close of the event.
Johnson, who works at Hewlett Packard in Fort Collins much of the year, admits his community is comprised of “conservative church-goers.”
“But you’re voting in a president, not a pastor,” he said.
This time, though, it seems Christian conservatives won’t have to make that distinction.
Huckabee’s received his fair share of criticisms, mostly from party rival Romney, but many supporters say he seemed calm and candid in his response to the attacks. And for Iowa voters, who get a piece of democracy most states can only envy, a little honesty goes a long way.
Rick Bauer, a postman in Cedar Rapids, says he ignores political talk at work, where the American Postal Worker’s Union strongly endorses the Democrats. For him, it’s as simple as being pro-life, anti-tax, having Christian values and small government.
A 54-year-old who lived in Iowa most of his life, Bauer seems elated to dedicate his first caucus visit to Huckabee.
Hollywood star and Total Gym spokesman Chuck Norris (better known as Walker in most groups) hearts Huckabee, too. He publically endorsed him Tuesday in front of more than 2,000 Des Moines supporters.
Huck fans want the only guy on the right who call tell a joke, play the bass guitar and deliver a sermon all at once. And he’s delivering exactly that.
From Des Moines to Cedar Rapids, the older, Republican voters have an energy that rivals the youthful liberals who traveled cross-country to aid the Barack Obama camp – the vanguard on the left.
As far as the Republican ticket goes, my original predictions – for both tickets – seem vindicated in what is likely to be the last poll before the Iowa caucuses.
This will be a history-making election either way.