Alex, Brett, and HucksArmy.com are the focus of this front page article in the Sunday Edition of the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Much of the national leadership of the Christian conservative movement has turned a cold shoulder to the Republican presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, wary of his populist approach to economic issues and his criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. But that has only fired up Brett and Alex Harris.
The Harris brothers, 19-year-old evangelical authors and speakers who grew up steeped in the conservative Christian movement, are the creators of Huck’s Army, an online network that has connected 12,000 Huckabee campaign volunteers, including several hundred in Michigan, which votes Tuesday, and South Carolina, which votes Saturday.
They say they like Mr. Huckabee for the same reason many of their elders do not: “He reaches outside the normal Republican box,” Brett Harris said in an interview from his home near Portland, Ore.
The brothers fell for Mr. Huckabee last August when they saw him draw applause on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” for explaining that he believed in a Christian obligation to care for prenatal “life” and also education, health care, jobs and other aspects of “life.” “It is a new kind of evangelical conservative position,” Brett Harris said. Alex Harris added, “And we are not going to have to be embarrassed about him.”
Mr. Huckabee, who was a Southern Baptist minister before serving as governor of Arkansas, is the only candidate in the presidential race who identifies himself as an evangelical. But instead of uniting conservative Christians, his candidacy is threatening to drive a wedge into the movement, potentially dividing its best-known national leaders from part of their base...
“Some of my Christian friends, just like some of my not-so-Christian friends, have become a little too Washingtonian,” said Rick Scarborough, an aspiring successor to the previous generation of conservative Christian leaders. He recently argued that his allies were wrong to balk at Mr. Huckabee’s turn toward environmentalism and “social justice.”
“Can you imagine Jesus ignoring the plight of the disenfranchised and downtrodden while going after the abortionist?” Mr. Scarborough wrote on the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com.
But the lack of enthusiasm at the top of the movement has not deterred hundreds of grass-roots activists in Michigan and South Carolina who, like the Harrises, are trying to make up for the Huckabee campaign’s lack of organization and resources.
Huckabee volunteers are also working hard to court Catholics in Michigan, said Jeffrey Quesnelle, a 20-year-old conservative Catholic who is now the Michigan coordinator for Huck’s Army. (The Harris brothers have signed up state coordinators in 45 states.) Among other things, Mr. Quesnelle said, volunteers have been distributing copies of articles from the Web site Catholic Online, a hub for dedicated church members, praising Mr. Huckabee’s opposition to abortion rights and his empathy for the poor as consistent with the social teachings of the church.
In South Carolina, a make-or-break state for Mr. Huckabee and one where evangelicals are expected to make up more than a third of the Republican primary voters, the Huckabee campaign had only a state manager and two paid staff members until about two weeks ago.
But more than 500 people, many of them young evangelicals, have signed up for online Huckabee meet-up groups, said Christian Hine, 30, the state coordinator of the Huck’s Army effort. Unaided by the campaign, volunteers have borrowed church directories and bought their own phone lists to try to identify likely Huckabee voters, Mr. Hine said, and even paid to print their own Huckabee signs when the campaign ran out.
In November, volunteers associated with Huck’s Army raised about $1,550 to hire a plane towing a “Huckabee for President — HucksArmy.com” banner to circle over the South Carolina-Clemson football game, one of the biggest sporting events in the state. (Among other endeavors, members of the group also pitched in about $500 to buy pizza, balloons and doughnuts for Huckabee volunteers before the Iowa caucus.)
“Huckabee is a change for the conservative Christian movement, and a welcome one,” said Jennifer Stec, a 34-year-old homemaker in Lexington, S.C., who built a network of about 400 Huckabee volunteers. She started with her church Sunday school class, she said, and later printed her own Huckabee business cards and passed them out at the supermarket.
Alice Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. Huckabee, said the campaign “would love to have the support of the generals” of the Christian conservative movement, “but we are more than happy to have the support of the troops, and that seems to be what is happening here.” Ms. Stewart said the Harris brothers were especially “instrumental,” pointing out that they helped enlist the actor Chuck Norris, who now accompanies Mr. Huckabee on the trail.
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