Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I'm so grumpy. I had a blog post queued up for months about "The Case for Mike Huckabee", but never got around to it. Mostly I just didn't care that much about the Republican side of the field.

But now, it appears, Governor Huckabee is way out in the lead in Iowa. He can't be ignored. In fact, Time has just rolled out Why They Love Huckabee and it is exactly what I would have written.

Due to his surge, there have been a lot of attacks on Huckabee lately, but they are a hodgepodge of comments that don't draw a cohesive image. He isn't the "cold one" or the "flip flopper" or the "rich guy in favor of the poor guy" or the "lazy guy from tv". So far, he's just a guy who has made some mistakes. That doesn't actually hurt him in today's political arena. A buddy of mine, who doesn't care much for politics, labeled Huckabee a "evangelical populist" and I can't think of a better way to summarize the image he is trying to project.

So where did the Huck-a-boom come from? First, it started with a poor crop of Republican candidates. But recently, it is obvious that Huckabee is the best debater on the stage. He's got a solid record that will play well in a general election. He's folksy and tells great stories. He definitely passes the beer and BBQ test. He's got a great story of redemption over weight loss. In fact, he's a similar model as President George W. Bush.

Some might think that is a millstone around a candidate's neck. I'd argue just the opposite. Americans never rejected George Bush. He's a two-term President. They loved the idea of a President who is fallible, "one of us", strong convictions, etc. Americans haven't soured on the George W. Bush model. No one is clamoring for elitists, insiders, perfection, flip floppers, know-it-all, etc. Instead, Americans have soured on THIS SPECIFIC version of that model. President Bush is out, but a similar version, but with better governing skills would be fine.

And that's exactly what Huckabee promises to deliver.

Remember, that Republicans only have to play defense in this election. They just need to keep the states they won in 2000 and 2004. In the current political environment, Huckabee looks able to do that, especially if the Democrats nominate a DC-insider as his opponent.

The talking heads are now wondering if Huckabee can win the nomination and ultimately the White House. I think he can with a pretty straightforward game plan. First, he has to win Iowa. Projections for Republican turnout in Iowa this year is probably in the 100, 000 range. So to "win" Iowa probably needs 30,000 votes. Some city councils get more votes than that! Even with his modest campaign staff, getting those numbers to the polls isn't impossible.

He'll get a huge bump in national media and in fundraising. However, New Hampshire happens too quickly to do much there. He just has to finish respectably in NH. This is possible since Romney and Giuliani will get a lot of votes and Huckabee could finish 3rd behind them. McCain is the wild card here, but I don't think he gets much above his poll numbers now.

Then, Huckabee gets a week to campaign in South Carolina. It is a primary, so he doesn't need organization there. He simply needs to campaign. All his money and organization can be saved for Super Duper Tuesday on February 5th or a fight in Florida. If Huckabee wins South Carolina, he's now beaten Romney in 2 of the first 3 states and probably killed Romney's "small state" strategy.

He then has to set his sights on Giuliani's BIG state strategy. Huckabee will have plenty of media exposure and money at this point, but his staff will still be gearing up. He won't be able effectively compete in all 20 states on Super Duper Tuesday. However, Huckabee could mortally wound Giuliani prior to Super Duper Tuesday with a win in Florida on January 29th.

Florida is home to 1,167,850 Southern Baptists. Again, relying on his folksy charm and Southern Baptist preacher background, he can turn out those folks to vote. George Bush won 74% of the vote in Florida in 2000 with 516,161 votes.

Going into Super Duper Tuesday, he's won 3 of the 5 contests. He's won in small states and a big state. He's taken the fight to Romney (IA) and Giuliani (FL) and bested them. He should roll to the nomination with convincing wins on February 5th.

How would you feel about a Huckabee administration? You may want to start visualizing it.