David Yepsen has a great column in the Des Moines Register today, comparing Huckabee to Reagan:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's been the hot candidate in the Republican race since he finished second in the Iowa GOP's straw poll back in August.The New York Sun has an article covering the rise of Huckabee as the GOP dark horse:
Oh, there was a little time out for some chatter about Fred Thompson, but as he has fallen flat, the talk about Huckabee has resumed.
In recent days, that talk has escalated to a new level of buzz: Huckabee's doing so well in Iowa, he just might be able to win the Iowa Republican caucuses.
Wow. Conventional wisdom dictates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's going to win Iowa. Ever since that straw poll, the buzzmeisters have slotted Huckabee to take second or third. To suggest he's going to win Iowa is taking it to a new level.
Like Huckabee, Romney is fond of telling people he ran and won in a Democratic state. It's also true Romney ran as a liberal on social issues such as gay rights and abortion. Had he taken the positions on those issues that he proclaims now, he never would have been elected in Massachusetts.
Huckabee, on the other hand, has been consistent, and GOP stalwarts are noticing that difference between the two men. Huckabee's rallied enough social conservatives to force Sam Brownback out of the race.
After Thompson's late start, he's lighting no fires in Iowa. His speech at the big Reagan Dinner Saturday night was a boilerplate thing he could have given anywhere. Romney didn't show. Huckabee got the only standing ovation.
As we chart Huckabee's success in the 2008 contest, it is most useful now to concentrate on his message. It is a positive, inclusive, good-humored one. As Republicans seek to rebuild from their defeat of 2006 and try to stave off a similar loss in 2008, they might study the Book of Huckabee.
"I'm a conservative, but I'm not mean about it," he tells audiences. He shows up at events with minority groups. His pro-life message also encompasses health care for poor women and a concern for children. His talk about education reform includes developing creative skills through art and music.
He had fun playing the bass guitar in his band at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake - an event that attracted more than 600 people on Friday. A former Baptist pastor, Huckabee peppers his speeches with Scripture and rock-music lyrics.
Unlike some Republican presidential candidates, who grew up in well-to-do families, Huckabee tells audiences his mother grew up in a house with dirt floors, and on his father's side, he is the first male to graduate from high school. That seems to give him a populist bent - and an understanding for poor people - that isn't seen in the Ivy League conservatives.
At a time when GOP candidates are falling all over themselves to rekindle the spirit of Ronald Reagan in their party, Huckabee's coming as close as anyone.
The quiet man of the Republican presidential race, Mike Huckabee, is becoming the dark horse social conservative candidate who could end up trouncing his better known, better funded rivals.In a new American Research Group poll released today, Huckabee holds a strong second place position in Iowa, just 8 points behind Mitt Romney. This comes on the heels of yesterday's Hawkeye Poll from University of Iowa which had Huckabee tied with Giuliani for second place.
In a poll of Iowa Republicans published yesterday, the former governor of Arkansas is neck and neck with Mayor Giuliani in a tie for second place behind Mitt Romney, who has spent tens of millions including an injection of his personal wealth to establish his lead in the bellwether state.
Mr. Huckabee's appeal to Republicans has gathered strength as commentators of both right and left have begun to depict him as a strong outside chance in a race that has not yet established a clear front-runner.
William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, has written a scenario in which Mr. Huckabee beats Mr. Romney, or comes a close second, in Iowa, before beating Mr. Thompson in New Hampshire. Spurred by his success, he begins attracting donations and mobilizes his Southern supporters to trounce Mr. Giuliani.
Larry Eichel of the Philadelphia Inquirer described Mr. Huckabee as the "emerging choice of rank-and-file social conservatives." "He's an engaging speaker, a plainspoken man with populist leanings," and "could have an impact" if he starts attracting money, Mr. Eichel wrote.
In a column last week, Dick Morris, President Clinton's former aide who in 1992 was an adviser to Mr. Huckabee, painted Mr. Huckabee as "the most interesting phenomenon in either party's race" and "a gripping, humorous, passionate orator [who] brings a spiritual dimension to public-policy problems."
"This is a guy who brought the house down at the Values Voter Summit, wins or comes close to winning every debate, shocked everyone by placing second in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll, and is now inching toward the top of the polls in the Iowa caucuses," Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Harrisburg, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
ARG Poll Results:Radio Iowa's blog has some wonderful in-depth coverage of Huckabee's recent campaigning in Iowa:
Some of Huckabee's personable political skills, perhaps learned when he served in the pulpit rather than the Arkansas statehouse, were on display Saturday night.And Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost has done some serious homework and released an amazingly comprehensive rebuttal of the Club for Growth attacks against Huckabee. We highly recommend that you read the whole thing, but here is a small sample:
This past weekend when he walked up to that group of reporters in Des Moines, Huckabee complimented a reporter on his new glasses. Huckabee and this male reporter hadn't been in the same room for over two months, but Huckabee noticed the new glasses.
Huckabee wore a light blue tie with dozens of tiny white elephants splattered across it to deliver his Saturday night speech. I jokingly asked him about the tie.
"This is my true-blue-Republican elephant tie. Where else can I wear this?" Huckabee responded with a laugh.
"Is it made in the USA?" I asked.
Huckabee flipped the tie over to display the label. "I'll hold it up close so you can see it. I know you told me your eyes aren't very good. Look at that -- USA," Huckabee said to me.
Another personal detail remembered, filed away in his mind, and pulled out for use on Saturday.
Huckabee's other skill as an orator was on display a few hours later when he got his turn at the microphone Saturday night. I'm transcribing his closing comments for you, with some notes about pacing and delivery to show that he knows how to "play" a crowd and get an emotional response.
"I'm obviously here, like every other presidential candidate, for one purpose and it's not to eat the chicken dinner," Huckabee said slowly, pausing at the end of the sentence to let the crowd laugh.
The crowd started laughing.
Then, Huckabee picked up the pace of his delivery just a bit. "Nothing wrong with chicken dinner because we produce a lot of chicken in Arkansas," Huckabee said, as the laughter started building in the room "We want you to eat chicken. Lots of it. Toss some rice on top of it and we'll really be proud of ya. Why there's not corn on that plate I'll never understand. I know where I am tonight," Huckabee said. The crowd laughed a bit louder.
Next, Huckabee switched to nearly full-on pastor mode. His pacing -- and emphasis on certain words like "understand" -- were the cadence of a sermon reaching its zenith.
"But I'm here like every other presidential candidate because I want your vote, I want your support, but not just because I want to be president. I want to make sure this country is as good to the future generations as it has been to me. The prophet Isaiah said: 'Look to the rock from which you were hewn. Look to the quarry from which you were dug.' I understand something of the rock from which I was hewn and the quarry from which I was dug. On my mother's side of the family, I'm one generation away from dirt floors and outdoor toilets. On my father's side of the family, there's not a male upstream from me that even graduated high school. Ladies and gentleman, you're looking at a guy who has absolutely lived and experienced the American Dream. I have freedom today because brave men and women put on the uniform of this country, saluted this flag, took an oath and honored with their very blood and lives their sacred duty to keep guys like me free. I have an obligation not to just run for president, but to provide the kind of leadership so our children and our grandchildren and the future of this country will know that we have done everything within our power not only to love this country and to enjoy it, but to preserve it, to protect it and to pass it on to the next generation. Anything less than that does not warrant your support. That does," Huckabee said.
Then, to the close -- a direct verbal assault on the two Democrats Republicans loved to hate.
"I'm often asked, 'Do you think you can win, particularly against Hillary?' Folks, may I suggest to you that I've been battling against the headwinds of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton's political machine in Arkansas more than anybody else running for president. I didn't just win once, not twice, not three times but four times in a statewide election against the Clinton political machine. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton campaigned against me every time I ever ran and I won and they didn't and next year, the same thing is going to happen in America that happened in Arkansas," Huckabee said. The crowd had started clapping and he continued to speak over it. "We win. They lose and America wins. A stronger, freer, less expensive nation. Thank you very much."
Huckabee was the only one of the six candidates who spoke Saturday night to get the crowd to rise to its feet in applause at the conclusion of his speech.
After being elected Governor of California in 1967, Ronald Reagan reneged on a campaign promise and signed into law the single biggest tax increase in the state's history: $1 billion. (At the time, the total state budget was only about $5 billion. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, the increase in today's dollars would be $10 billion.)
If the Club for Growth had been around in 1980, Reagan might not have become President. The influential fiscal conservative group would surely have done everything in their power to prevent the Gipper from gaining the nomination. They would have attempted to derail Reagan's campaign just as they are now doing to Gov. Huckabee.
For several months the Club for Growth has been attacking Huckabee's bona fides as a fiscal conservative. In the process, they've slandered the Governor's record, deceived numerous trusting conservatives, and cast doubts on the organization's honesty and trustworthiness. It's a disgraceful situation made all the more shameful by our continued willingness to be duped.
I'm embarrassed that I initially relied on Andrew Roth's white paper when I formed my first impression of Gov. Huckabee. I'm even more embarrassed that others that have read this sloppy analysis believe it is a damning indictment. I've always considered The Club for Growth to be a respectable conservative organization. But their attempts to deceive their fellow conservatives by misrepresenting Huckabee's record have proven they are unworthy of such trust. Pat Toomey and his organization owe Governor Huckabee--and the rest of us--an apology for their attempted deception.