When it comes to the public opinion in Iowa on presidential viability, the Republicans have had a much more confusing race than the Democrats – at least up until a couple of months ago when Iowa’s Republicans realized that Mike Huckabee represents everything the neoconservatives stand for.
With his charismatic stage presence (unless he is playing the bass guitar), attractive mind set on the issues that matter to the religious right and his new secret weapon Chuck Norris, the Huckster has taken the state by storm and surprised the nation with his climb from mediocrity to superstar status.
In the first 10 months of what is to be the longest, most crowded presidential race in the history of America, Republicans didn’t know where to turn. Their party was in shambles after further reports of failure in Iraq and failed foreign, education and security policy caused the Bush administration’s popularity to fall to dismal depths. This was not helped by a series of GOP sex scandals which destroyed their only good card, that moral values.
Mitt Romney was Mormon and a little fake; Rudy Giuliani was a cross-dressing, pro-choice, anti-gun, border security conundrum who ran his entire campaign off of fuel from his performance after the 9/11 attacks; and John McCain was more polarizing than Hillary Clinton. The rest of the candidates, including Huckabee, were no-name representatives, governors and actors with little to no political experience or bad track records.
But when Huckabee employed Chuck Norris as a volunteer campaign tool and started pandering to the right wing as a former Baptist pastor who knows what Christian values mean, he saturated the trail with what Norris calls “Chuck Norris facts” and religious candor.
The Republicans had found their candidate. Giuliani, who was the most viable option at the beginning of the race, kept making an ass of himself by mentioning 9/11 in his answers to every question and Romney began his smear campaign on Huckabee, which many conservative voters view as negative.
“I don’t want to hear what one candidate is doing wrong, I want to hear what Romney’s going to do as president,” said one zealous Huckabee supporter plastered in stickers, holding a “Faith, family, and freedom” sign said at a Des Moines ballroom after Norris spoke on behalf of Huckabee.
Meanwhile, Ron Paul and other marginalized candidates have been exposed to de facto exclusion from the race by FOX News when the conservative media outlet decided to host several Republican debates in New Hampshire and not invite the fringe candidates. Supporters of Paul say the GOP doesn’t want him to get the ticket because of his unconventional policies.
But each candidate has his merit and a large support base. Even Paul returned from the campaign trail in Florida to hold a Des Moines rally Wednesday night to which over 700 people showed up.
Huckabee told reporters that the polls don’t necessarily reflect the public opinion. A state poll on Friday had Romney ahead by a big lead. Two days later, a Des Moines Register poll showed Huckabee nine percentage points ahead of Romney.
So with polls showing Huckabee in lead; Romney, McCain and Giuliani losing favor from Iowa voters; and Fred Thompson and Ron Paul fighting for fourth place, Iowa will have never been louder than they will be tonight.