January 7, 2008

TIME: Eating Up Huckabee

Check out this great article from TIME Magazine:

This is what it looks like when the seams burst on a threadbare campaign: Over a hundred people, crushed together between the Mike Huckabee bus and the front door of the Barley House restaurant Monday afternoon on Main Street in Concord, N.H.

The fans of rival candidate Ron Paul shout "Tax Hike Mike" over the Huck boosters, who scream "We Like Mike," and the press is jammed by the dozens in the middle, unable to get through the front door to witness the day's crucial newsmaking moment, when the Huck-a-campaign pulls off its latest Huck-a-coup — the launch of the Huck-a-burger. Yes, this is really happening.

We bang on the restaurant's front window. "What do you need?" a Huckabee aide writes out on a piece of paper, unable to hear us. TO GET IN! He understands, but can't help. "Fire marshal says no capacity," he writes back on his notepad. So we are left to stand in the street, amid the unending din. Even MSNBC's Chris Matthews, with his shimmering corn-husk blond hair, cannot gain entrance. Huckabee's own son, David, is not even going to try.

Just a few weeks ago, none of this would ever have happened. Back then Huckabee was still known as the pastor with the funny tax plan, whom no one really understood and only a handful of reporters followed. Sure, he was polling well in Iowa, went the buzz, but that's where all the evangelicals live. He had no real campaign operation to back him up. He was considered a flash in the pan. He was a curiosity. He wasn't going anywhere. Remember Pat Robertson in 1988? It was just a matter of time.

But then Huckabee won in Iowa, not barely, but by 9 points. He crushed Mitt Romney, despite the Mitt machine, a massive campaign organization that ruled the August straw poll and dropped nasty mailers like confetti. Now he is polling third behind Romney and McCain in New Hampshire, the two home-state favorites, at about 11%, a southern Baptist minister who has pulled ahead of a former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in New England. Huckabee has skillfully set expectations low enough that a third-place finish in New Hampshire will be viewed as a success, and he is also leading in polls in South Carolina, where the GOP will hold a key primary on January 19. So the press has got to figure Huckabee out, and fast, which is bad timing, because New Hampshire voters are trying to do the same thing. On more than one occasion, the crowds have grown unwieldy, halls packed with enthusiastic audiences, all in a state where most folk don't much trust anyone who wears religion on their sleeve.
Read the whole thing...

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