March 9, 2008

Oregonian: blazes an Internet trail

Here is our column, published in the Sunday edition of the Oregonian -- as the front page piece in the Sunday Opinion section: blazes an Internet trail
Teenage twin brothers from Gresham tell how they built a grass-roots Internet movement to support Mike Huckabee's surprising campaign


As first-time voters and teenage members of the Web-savvy Generation Y, we've been right in the middle of one of the clearest themes in the 2008 presidential primaries: More than Howard Dean in 2004, the Internet really does change everything.

From Ron Paul's impressive online fundraising and Barack Obama's slick social networks to Hillary Clinton's online "conversations" and the quirky CNN/YouTube debates, the Internet has played a bigger role in selecting our next president than ever before.

But none of these provide the best example of how the Internet is changing the political landscape. No, the true trail blazers of Election 2008 were the members of, an independent, national, grass-roots campaign for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the surprise candidate of the primary season.

More organized grass roots than grass-roots organization, Huck's Army built itself from the ground up starting last October, and by early 2008 boasted national campaign managers, regional coordinators and state coordinators in 49 states -- with hundreds of local chapters representing more than 20,000 active volunteers connected online.

For a candidate who started with little name recognition and who always operated with less staff and resources than his rivals, the impact of this new breed of grass roots was truly remarkable. It propelled Huckabee from his position as a political asterisk to eight primary wins, including a stunning upset in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and a surprising five-state haul on Super Tuesday. Four days later, he shocked the world again, trouncing McCain in Kansas by a 3-to-1 margin, winning the Louisiana primary and placing a close second in Washington state.

When all was said and done, the down-to-Earth governor outlasted party "savior" Fred Thompson, the once-presumed nominee Rudy Giuliani and millionaire Mitt Romney -- winning hundreds of delegates and the votes of millions of Americans. Ask him, and Huckabee will tell you that Huck's Army deserves a lot of the credit.

"Huck's Army is the secret weapon of our campaign," he told us at a fundraiser at Chuck Norris' ranch in January. "They've supplied the force and energy that nobody from the national media has fully comprehended and understood."

Inspired by an "authentic conservative"

So, who are these game-changing soldiers to whom the Internet gave a voice? We may as well start with ourselves: two home-schooled, evangelical 19-year-old twin brothers from Gresham, and co-founders of Our story is a testament to the power of ordinary citizens, and especially young people, in this new political age.

Though politically active throughout high school, we paid little attention to what we felt was a disappointing slate of GOP candidates. That is, until we began watching clips of Huckabee online and read through the issues section on his Web site.

Here was an authentic conservative who knew how to communicate, lead and govern. Here was a conservative who wasn't "mad at anyone about it," who could trade quips with the best on late night television, and who had innovative ideas for bringing a polarized nation together to address real problems: things like education, health care, our tax system, energy independence and environmental stewardship.

Our excitement led to our sending an e-mail about Huckabee to several hundred friends, encouraging them to check out his Web site and a video we had quickly pulled together of clips from his performances in the presidential debates.

Unknown to us, our e-mail found its way to martial artist and actor Norris. He soon became Huckabee's most visible backer, recording a campaign ad that was an instant YouTube sensation, appearing at campaign stops and in television interviews, and crediting "two teenage brothers from Oregon" for getting him on board.

Around that same time, convinced that the grass-roots enthusiasm we saw building around our candidate needed a place to gather, we launched As our ranks grew and Huckabee experienced a national surge in support, these two teenage brothers from Oregon began to receive national media attention. Suddenly the major networks, radio stations, and newspapers from The New York Times to The Oregonian were curious about what two teenagers from the Portland suburbs had helped create. We're still amazed ourselves. Even four years ago it wouldn't have been possible.

Huck's Army used to organize its local efforts, but that's where the similarities to past election cycles' Internet grass roots came to an end. Along with our national grass-roots campaign managers -- 23-year-old David Schmidt of Fresno, Calif., and 28-year-old Jimmy Morris of Joplin, Miss. -- we built a near-complete national campaign infrastructure.

Besides our regional, state and local coordinators, we had liaisons to each of the popular social-networking sites, had supporters in charge of TiVoing and uploading all Huckabee television appearances to YouTube within hours, and turned out rapid-response news releases from our public affairs team, led by veteran journalist Lucas Roebuck.

Our days were largely spent on the phone, sending e-mails and discussing strategy on the discussion forum. During the stretch run, we had nightly conference calls with Jimmy Schmidt and Morris to share ideas that had made their way up from local groups that day and then broadcast them nationally. Sarah Lai Stirland of Wired News described the Web site as "a nerve center through which resources and ideas can flow almost instantaneously."

Grass-roots movement

Needless to say, Huck's Army was so much more than just us. It was tens of thousands of ordinary Americans inspired to go all out for a candidate, many for the first time in their lives.

It was guys like Michigan truck driver Randy Bishop, who gave his first political speech to a room full of voters and elected officials and won the room over for Huckabee.

It was young home school moms like Andrea Aaron, raising money online to throw a pizza party for volunteers in Iowa, flying a banner over the USC-Clemson football game in South Carolina, and making 2 a.m. connections to exchange campaign materials with fellow Huck's Army members.

It was twentysomethings like Jack Somers, Chris Schandevel and Shawn Troxel, who crisscrossed states from Texas to Virginia to deliver yard signs and campaign materials for upcoming states in the primary calendar.

It was voters in their 40s and 50s who were inspired to hope again after years of disillusionment with politics. It was lifelong Democrats tired of partisanship and looking for leadership. It was preteens and high school students too young to vote, but who made hundreds of phone calls for a candidate they knew was honest and real.

In recent days we've been asked repeatedly what all this means. With Huckabee leaving the race after McCain clinched the nomination on Tuesday, was it worth it? Will Huck's Army be anything more than a curious footnote in the virtual pages of Wikipedia?

We believe the answer is yes, and we're determined that it will be. The Internet may have made it possible, but Huck's Army was more than just the Internet. Huckabee inspired a movement. His message and ideas captured hearts and minds alike. And we're still here.

Members of Huck's Army can articulate issues, principles and a positive conservatism. We're a new generation of conservatives who recognize that a consistent conservative philosophy can speak to demographics and issues where Republicans traditionally have failed.

Huckabee was opposed by the Republican establishment and ultimately fell short, but his ability to connect with the people cannot be denied. It reminds us of another candidate who failed in his first presidential bid -- 12 years before we were even born -- but who spent the next four years building a coalition that led to victory in 1980 and 1984: Ronald Reagan.

Huck's Army may well be the start of a similar coalition for the next Great Communicator. Huckabee's supporters are not disillusioned; we're resolved. We will work to make the Republican Party strong because we work to make it right. Some of our members will one day hold office, but all of us will stay engaged.

Call us young idealists, but it was worth it -- and it's not over.

About the Authors: Alex and Brett Harris are the teen founders of and serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution Tour conferences. They have been featured nationally on ABC, MSNBC, CNN, and NPR, and in publications such as Newsweek, Wired, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Their book "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations" will be released April 15 by Multnomah Books, a division of Random House. They live outside Portland.

March 6, 2008

March 6: Huckabee News Roundup

A couple of great articles have come out in the last day or so, covering Huckabee's exit from the presidential race. One is from Joy Lin of CBS News:

Until the very end of his campaign, Mike Huckabee defied convention. While other presidential candidates would have taken half a day to gear up for a concession speech – thanking supporters in the meantime and leaking the bad news to reporters so everyone would make the official goodbye -- Huckabee decided to take care of business quickly.

At 7:59 p.m., a close senior aide signaled Huckabee was “getting close but not quite” at the point of concession. By 9 p.m., the campaign confirmed Huckabee would drop out that night. Fifteen minutes later, Huckabee took the stage at the Texas watch party to declare it was all over. He never waited for the D.C. political reporters to show up.

“We started this effort with very little recognition and virtually no resources,” Huckabee said in his speech, his wife Janet at his side. “We ended with slightly more recognition and very few resources.” His audience laughed. “But what a journey. What a journey, a journey of a lifetime. It is not lost on me where I started.”

Where he started was at the back of the pack. Little-known Mike Huckabee, with his unconventional name, unconventional background, and expressive caterpillar eyebrows faced incredible odds going into the campaign cycle – in late fall, reporters liked to trade stories about Huckabee sightings at the baggage carousel or in the lobby of a three star hotel. Although he had served as governor for 10 ½ years, Huckabee came from a poor state with no personal wealth and a limited pool of resources. Only thirty staffers hired to run a national presidential campaign, Huckabee marveled in his concession speech, “No one has ever gotten this far with such limited resources.”
Read the whole thing...

Another good one comes from US News & World Report:
Seven months ago, a stunned and uncharacteristically speechless Mike Huckabee, crushed by ecstatic supporters, stumbled out of an Iowa arena and into his improbably durable presidential run.

Inside the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, the former Arkansas governor had just finished a surprising second to Mitt Romney in the state GOP's presidential straw poll. Vastly outspent and hopelessly outmanned at the massive event, he parlayed his "victory" (Sen. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani didn't compete), his appeal to Christian conservatives, and his knack for funny one-liners into national exposure. His underdog status became his rallying cry.

And that stifling summer day, during which Huckabee jammed with his band "Capitol Offense" and served up watermelon from his hometown of Hope, Ark., set the tone for a perpetually broke campaign that would stun the Republican establishment. In early January, Huckabee easily won Iowa's first-in-the nation presidential caucuses, upending Romney's win-early strategy. He then took seven more contests before his quixotic journey came to an end last night in Texas, when Sen. John McCain, who fought his own epic battle back from the brink, hit the magic delegate number needed to secure the Republican nomination.

"I fought the good fight," Huckabee told supporters, quoting the writings of the Apostle Paul. "I've finished the race, and I've kept the faith."

In the process, the former Baptist minister not only promoted the issues of Republican evangelicals but helped turn a slew of well-funded sure things into also-rans. Former Massachusetts Governor Romney, who spent more than $105 million (including a good chunk of his own fortune), dropped out last month. Giuliani, despite his fame as New York City's mayor during 9/11 and a $63.9 million effort, failed to yield a single delegate. And Fred Thompson, the actor and former senator who was hailed as a potential conservative savior, raised $23.6 million for his campaign that died before it started.

Huckabee, who raised a total of $12.9 million—including $3.9 million last month, had some national party leaders worried that his continued presence in the race would make it more difficult for McCain, who many hard-right conservatives find unpalatable, to unify fractured Republicans. But Huckabee found that attitude downright irritating—it's "pathetic," he told U.S. News, that the party couldn't handle a little competition "in the semifinals."
Read the whole thing...

This Washington Post article contains some interesting news:
Advisers to Mike Huckabee spent yesterday starting to build a conservative coalition that could propel a future run for the White House, hoping to capitalize on the popularity he gained during his unlikely presidential bid.

Using as a model Ronald Reagan's time between his failed run in 1976 and his success in 1980, the former Arkansas governor plans to help Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Republican congressional candidates win over conservative Christians in the fall, while looking for a national radio show or other forum that he can use to expand his influence within the party.

And though Huckabee has said that he doubts McCain would offer him the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, he has not denied interest in the job. The head of his campaign's faith-and-values coalition, conservative radio talk show host Janet Folger, said she is broadcasting the phone number of McCain's campaign office so callers can demand that Huckabee be placed on the ticket. Folger said McCain "needs" to pick Huckabee to ensure that conservative Christians will turn out in November.

Huckabee spent yesterday thanking his supporters, as well as taking a congratulatory call for his performance from President Bush, who officially endorsed McCain yesterday.

"We want to stay in touch and start now building a platform to continue addressing issues that brought us together in the first place," Huckabee said in an e-mail to supporters yesterday. "We will keep our website up and as we transition, will want to create a way to keep in touch and continue the battle for our families, our freedom, and our future."

March 4, 2008

Reflections on an Incredible Campaign

March 4th, 2008
Dear Friends,

We three brothers began blogging for Governor Huckabee in August -- back when he was little more than an asterisk in the polls. Seven months and three hundred and sixteen posts later, we've seen him shock the world time and time again, going from second-tier to front-runner, and captivating the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of voters across America. Tonight, we watched him concede the race with grace, humility, and the same optimism, humor, and principled steadfastness that has defined his candidacy.

What an incredible ride it has been. Who would have thought that two 19-year-old twin brothers could make a mark on a presidential election? And yet an email reached Chuck Norris, a website launched a grassroots movement, and thousands of lives have changed -- ours included. We'll never forget the friendships and memories we've shared.

Huckabee inspired a movement. That movement will not fade. Unlike the superficial hero worship of "Obamamania," members of Huck's Army can articulate issues, principles, and a consistent, practical, and hopeful conservatism. We're not disillusioned, we're resolved. Some of us will run for office, all will stay engaged. It's all been worth it.

Brett and I are presently working on a column that will appear in the upcoming Sunday Edition of The Oregonian -- our state's largest newspaper. In it we'll reflect more fully on Huck's Army, Huckabee, and the future of the movement. We believe we'll be speaking for thousands of members of Huck's Army -- comrades we know and love.

The journey has only just begun. We hope you'll continue it with us.


Alex Harris
for Alex, Brett, and Joel

P.S. We'll be posting our column on Sunday -- and other election-related thoughts as events warrant. We certainly hope to resurrect the blog for 2012. Meanwhile, to keep up on our activities, visit We'd love to hear from you, meet you, and stay in touch.