Mike Huckabee is up on stage, tuning his bass guitar while the crowd waits. I’d squeezed into a nice spot among the crowd (100 people or so) in the Elks Lodge of Cedar Rapids. Huckabee would be strumming at his best today; the man who had just retaken the lead in the polls from Romney (according to the final Des Moines Register polling that morning.)
I felt a tapping at my shoulder, and was surprised to find a middle-aged mom staring at my sweatshirt.
“Are you going to school there?” she asked, referring to the crude golden and black bird I adorned on my chest. I held a groan; having had my jacket stolen the night before, I was forced to shell out some bucks for a brand new sweatshirt, so I figured getting one with the University of Iowa logo would make a fitting souvenir.
But now I was in a tough spot. This woman certainly had some kind of opinion when it came to the college scene, and expressed her surprise to me that a student would be here at a Huckabee event.
Jane, as she called herself, was a Baptist mother who had three children, two of whom also attended the university. With a nervous laugh that, she told me that the university really was something of a “devil’s playground”: a liberal campus set in a liberal town.
But talking around to others in the area, I don’t think that’s the case: a fairly young Iowa City couple told me that the Ron Paul following at the university was more active than any other. This campus, in fact, has a bevy of student groups centered around a single candidate: Paul, Hillary, Rudy, Giuliani, Obama.even Huckabee and Thompson have their own student groups.
Though a presence of youthful voters were extremely slim at Huckabee’s Cedar Rapids visit, his stop in Des Moines drew an energetic crowd of over 2000, 40 percent of which were mired from that attractive college-age population. This shouldn’t be; trends show that young Republicans tend to lean towards socially-moderate candidates, certainly not the Southern Baptist who relies entirely on his faith when it comes to the issues. And yet, the final Des Moines Register poll shows Huckabee on the up in regards to support from college students, which has helped add up his new, comfortable lead in the polls.
Huckabee is certainly personable, but it’s Chuck Norris’ endorsement that has given him a firm backing of youth voters. His apperance at the “Huck n’ Chuck” event in Des Moines confirms this. When comparing his Cedar Rapids visit to the one in Des Moines, its as if Huckabee can appeal to two different significant demographics…and, perhaps, political viewpoints. No one can deny that Chuck Norris is a figure of respect from many twenty-somethings, regardless of political preference. This reporter wonders if the Texas Ranger hasn’t been able to pull in some disgruntled Democrats into the pure conservative fold that Huckabee represents. Just having a chance to see a beloved star in person is too tempting for any moderate to resist.
And don’t forget the guitar- Huckabee and his band play some mean southern rock. The man is something bizarre: a Baptist preacher backed by everyone’s favorite ass-kicker, the populist who seems a better bar buddy than Bush ever could’ve been. And should he win the presidency, we might not be forced to think that his bass will get dusty.
“When we win it,” Huckabee said, speaking to the Des Moines crowd. “Well, first we’ll be playing a gig on the White House lawn.”