Mike Huckabee spoke to a crowd of about 100 people in Cedar Rapids this morning. I hate to confirm all the cliches about the Arkansas Governor, but his campaign appeal really does rest on his folksy, down-to-earth charm and his good humor. People at the event said they were considering supporting Huckabee (there were precious few true believers) because he is "genuine," "honest," and/or "charming."
To wit. He opened his speech with a fictional story that made no point about his campaign or his personal history—it was simply a longish joke about a condemned man who would rather hang than listen to a politician campaign. Ba dum.
And from that, Huckabee moved to another story, this time a true one about a woman at a gala dinner in Arkansas who confused Huckabee with a different politician and was unapologetic about it afterwards. "You politicians all look the same to me," she told Huckabee. It's a head-scratcher why he chose to tell us.
As for the body of the speech, Huckabee spoke at length about how abortion is a moral issue that cannot, like Fred Thompson argues, be decided at the state level. That's Huckabee's bread and butter—as a former Baptist minister, he has unique appeal amongst the Christian Right. He took a hard-line approach on illegal immigration, pimped his fair tax idea that scraps the IRS and the income tax in favor of a "consumption tax," and emphasized that the American health care system needs to focus on prevention. It's time we started "killing snakes instead of treating snake bites," he said.
At one point, when an audience member was asking a question, one of the "Mike Huckabee for President" signs taped behind the Governor fell off the wall. Huckabee turned around while the person was still talking, picked the sign up, and smacked it back on. "I don't want anyone saying Huckabee's campaign is falling in Iowa," he said.
After the event, Huckabee's national field director, who also happens to be his daughter, said that Huckabee has to place in the top three in Iowa to stay in the race.
Oh, and after the event, I asked Huckabee if he was disappointed and/or suprised by social conservative Sam Brownback's endorsement of John McCain.
"I would be dishonest to say I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't that surprised," he said. "I knew that Sam and John McCain were good friends from the Senate. For me, what's more important than just having the Senator's support is having his supporters' support." Huckabee smiled and said, "John McCain can take Sam, I'll take the supporters."