Meanwhile, some preliminary reaction:
NRO: Rudy's story is coming in a later post. But if ovations at the Value Voters Summit determined who would be the Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee would win.
Rich Lowry: Wow. Let me repeat: Wow. What an incredible communicator. His message has gotten stronger with the accent on Buchanesque nationalist/protectionist notes, and he speaks the language of these kind of voters better than anyone. I found myself getting goose-bumps near the end of his speech when he invoked a long series of Biblical underdogs, beginning with David and his five smooth stones. He made as strong a case as possible for putting all pragmatic considerations aside and going with him. And no one could mistake the shots at Romney, including a reference to candidates who have as many positions as Elvis had sizes to his waist-band. Watch out in Iowa.
AmSpec Blog: To say that Huckabee knocked it out of the ballpark here at the Values Voter Summit would be to understate his performance. Early in the speech, he set the stage by saying that he was here "Not as one who comes to you, but one who comes from you." He talked about his backround as a Baptist minister, and then plunged into a number of issues in a speech litered with biblical references and folksy humor.
You know he owned this crowd, because he received multiple standing ovations, and it wasn't just on social issues. From tax policy to immigration, from energy independence to fighting Islamofascism, he had this crowd on its feet. Throughout his speech, almost as if he were giving a sermon, the crowd nodded and spoke out "yeah."
Mere Orthodoxy: Mike Huckabee is a man among his own people. And his people love Mike Huckabee.
The first time the presenter said his name–before he was introduced–he received loud cheers and a standing ovation. It was a sign of things to come.
With a well-structured speech, Huckabee won over the crowd handily.
It was a beautiful speech, and the crowd loved him. I’ll go out on a limb and claim that it will be Huckabee who will win the straw poll here–at least the straw poll of the votes on the ground. More than any other candidate thus far, Mike Huckabee had the room energetic, enthusiastic and excited.
Questions remain, but one answer is clear–Mike Huckabee deserves to be considered as a top-tier candidate for the Republican party. Even with his unusual (for Republican) financial views, he is a solid campaigner and a world-class communicator who could be an extraordinarily effective President.
PoliTalk: Lots of excitement in the room about Mike Huckabee who's appearance raised hoots and hollers several times. In fact, his opening was comfortable, probably one of the most comfortable of any set of remarks I've seen so far. He was especially strong with this line: "I don't come to you… I come from you."
In fact, he has received consistent standing applause throughout his speech. He also looks presidential -- he's comfortable in front of the audience which is more than one could say for Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson. And when it comes to discussing religiosity, Huckabee couldn't be beat. He went on a riff about what he was taught to believe, referring to Daniel and the Lions Den, David and Goliath, Jesus and the Blind Man -- frequently casting himself as the underdog.
But it wasn't just the religiosity. It was the passion with which he spoke -- he knew how to deliver a line and rile up an audience.
American Prospect: Huckabee came out swinging, which many assumed would happen, but it was an even far more aggressive, direct speech than I expected. While he didn't mention other candidates by name, he was clearly challenging their credibility with evangelical Christians. "I come to you not as one that comes to you, but as one that comes from you," he said.
"I don't want expediency or electability to replace our vales. We live or die by those values," he said. "I want to make it very clear that I do not spell with 'G-O-D,' 'G-O-P.' Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important."
He also hit on the right subject areas – abortion, gay marriage, immigration, appointment of federal judges -- and was the only candidate to drop the word "Islamofascism" into his speech this weekend. He also got in some plugs for the need for energy independence and the reviving the American industrial sector to liberate us from China. And he wasn't shy about advocating the kinds of constitutional amendments these voters would like to see happen in regards to marriage and abortion.
RedState: It's abundantly apparent from the corridors to the reception he gets when he comes in that Huckabee is among his own, more so than Romney or Fred.
He says we cannot "negotiate, accommodate, or placate Islamic terrorists. We must eliminate." The crowd likes that. "We cannot have the naive idea that if we leave them alone they will leave us alone. That will get us killed," he says as the crowd roars.
Then he goes into immigration and the broken border. He says he thanks God that we live in a place where people want to break into than break out of, but how terrible it is that it is more difficult for us to get on an airplane in our hometown than it is for an illegal to get over the border. Biggest Applause of Any Speech Yet That I've Seen.
He says he doesn't blame those who want to come here. He blames the government that has sat around doing nothing for over 20 years. Again, the crowd goes nuts.
He moves to energy and how bad it is that we are so dependent on energy from others. People in the crowd verbally agree with him. Then he bashes China and the crowd goes wild. Romney should be nervous. So should Fred.
"Our freedom is threatened by a tax system that is out of control." "As we say in the south, not even duct tape and WD-40 can fix it." He goes into Fair Tax. He points out how it would stop the IRS from muzzling ministers in the pulpits from speaking out. The crowd goes wild again.
He brings up the Law of the Sea Treaty. The people clap. He says any judge that thinks he can legislate from the bench "ought to be impeached." My ears are ringing the crowd is so loud.
Thompson and Romney should be worried. We have reached the crowd favorite.
Now he goes into marriage. The crowd goes wild and these, by the way, are not his people. His small group is up front, but the rest of the crowd is not his, but they are now.
"We don't need to move God to meet the cultural norms. We need to move the cultural norms to meet God." Massive applause. Standing ovation.