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“The Sorry State Of Huckabee And Santorum”: The Only Feeling Voters Have For These Two Is Apathy

Rick Santorum was unhappy.

While other candidates have managed to draw crowds of hundreds and even tens of thousands this cycle, Santorum arrived at Second Street Emporium, a dimly lit restaurant and bar in Webster City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon, to find that fewer than 50 people had come to see his town hall.

Making matters worse, the majority of them weren’t Iowa voters, but high school students who’d been bussed in from Cincinnati. They couldn’t even vote in the caucus on Monday.

“This is actually more than I expected,” Bob Algard, his field director in the Northwest part of the state, told me. He nodded at the crowd. “So this is pretty good.”

But Santorum, dressed in his signature sweater vest, was finding it hard to stay positive. His speech began optimistically enough—“things are gonna go surprisingly well for us on Monday!”—but he soon dropped the act.

“People always criticize Iowa because you put forth someone—myself and Mike Huckabee—who didn’t win the nomination,” he said, “but they don’t ask the second question: did the person who won the nomination win the election?”

He paused for a second and then answered his own question with a dramatic, “No!”

“So maybe,” he added, “they should’ve listened to Iowa instead of listening to New Hampshire! I think Iowa better reflects the values of this country, frankly, than New Hampshire does.”

In 2008, Huckabee won the Iowa caucus. In 2012, Santorum did. This time around, both men are nonentities. Huckabee polls at 2.5 percent on average. Santorum commands just 1 percent.

It’s hard to say what’s changed since the last cycle, except everything. Santorum, in his remarks, seemed bewildered by this frightening new world.

He is unable to comprehend how people could go from supporting someone like himself—a passive aggressive Catholic with enough kids to form a basketball team and some hours clocked in the U.S. Senate—to supporting a reality TV star the color of a clementine, or someone who boasts that their biggest accomplishment in Washington is the fact that everyone in Washington has learned to hate him in just a handful of years.

“Standing up for principles you believe in and have for 25 years, well, that doesn’t make you newsworthy!” he shouted. “But! If you call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, you can get on O’Reilly!”

For all his supposed disgust with Trump, Santorum did appear with him—and Huckabee—at his Drake University rally on Thursday, but he seemed to have forgotten that Saturday morning. He called the campaign “the Celebrity Apprentice” and “Presidential Apprentice.” He asked the crowd to help him “set things straight.”

Then his tone changed from angry to pleading.

“Here’s what I would suggest: that past is prologue,” he said. There is, according to him, “one person” running who has a history of going to Washington and passing conservative laws (his name rhymes with Shmick Shmamshmorum) and “look, the people of Iowa, four years ago, made that conclusion. So my feeling is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

A few hours later, about 60 miles South in Johnston, a bullet casing pegged my ribs. Then another hit my foot.

They came from Huckabee.

He was standing two feet away and pummeling the heart of a target—mostly its left side—with firepower from a handgun.

Rather than complain about his predicament, Huckabee channeled his anger in a different way: using weapons to get as much attention as possible before Monday.

I asked Huckabee if he was picturing anyone in particular as he looked at this target. Deflected. pic.twitter.com/2oYmvugH5l

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) January 30, 2016

A modest scrum of a little over a dozen reporters and photographers looked on as he shot, all of us wearing pink protective headsets and plastic eyewear. For perspective, there was just one other member of the media covering Santorum’s town hall.

Huckabee assessed his grouping. “I’m a left eye-dominant shooter,” he said, adding that the last time he shot was “about a a week ago.”

I asked him if he was picturing anyone’s face in particular as he fired at the target. He answered, “I aim for the heart.”

Though it certainly felt happier than Santorum’s event, it was difficult to find any actual Huckabee supporters at the gun range. After asking around a bit, a staffer introduced me to David Haake, Huckabee’s friend of 30 years. He drove in from his native Arkansas to support him.

“There’s new faces in the crowd,” he said when I asked about Huckabee’s performance this time around. People may feel, he said, “like ok, you’ve done this once, let’s look at somebody else.”

“But I really believe that come caucus night, when its all said and done, he will do much better than what the polls say. I really believe so.”

In the distance, Huckabee could be heard firing away.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 31, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Iowa Caucuses, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Christian Candidate”: The Republican Formula To Snag Christian Votes Is Unraveling

Mike Huckabee is not happy.

Once a rising star in the Republican Party who successfully leveraged his background as a pastor for political advantage, Huckabee’s 2016 presidential run has proved a disappointing sequel to his respectable third place showing in 2008. With underwhelming fundraising numbers and a bump to the kiddy table after the third GOP debate, most voters are no longer paying attention to the former governor’s campaign.

But perhaps the cruelest blow is that many conservative evangelical leaders and organizations have jumped ship, ignoring Huckabee in favor of contenders like Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Asked about this betrayal in a radio interview, Huckabee struck back. “A lot of them, quite frankly, I think they’re scared to death that if a guy like me got elected, I would actually do what I said I would do,” he alleged — and that would be bad for business.

“A lot of these organizations wouldn’t have the ability to do urgent fundraising because if we slay the dragon, what dragon do they continue to fight?” Huckabee continued, “And so, for many of them, [my victory] could be a real detriment to their organization’s abilities to gin up their supporters and raise the contributions.”

Huckabee pressed on to the final blow: Conservative evangelicals who don’t support him must be motivated by “secular” concerns like personal gain, because if they were truly acting in faith and prayer, they’d support him over their current candidates of choice.

In other words, if they weren’t so sinful, they’d listen to God and vote Huck.

Huckabee’s expression of his frustration is uncivil and theologically suspect, but from a political perspective the frustration is reasonable. After all, the formula to be the GOP’s “Christian candidate” used to be pretty straightforward: Give special attention to culture war issues like gay marriage, school prayer, and abortion; invoke God and scripture regularly; and tell your faith story in a compelling manner. This worked for Huckabee in 2008, just as it worked in 2012 for another 2016 also-ran, Rick Santorum.

But these days there are a lot of candidates trying to capture the GOP evangelical vote. And their success doesn’t seem to have much to do with their actual faith. Witness Cruz, for example, who quotes liberally from the Bible on the stump. His campaign asks supporters to join his national prayer team so there’s a “direct line of communication between our campaign and the thousands of Americans who are lifting us up before the Lord.” (The sign-up form also includes a box you can tick if you “publicly endorse Senator Ted Cruz for President!”)

While the Cruz camp insists there’s no “political or tactical angle” to joining the prayer team, their candidate’s public prayer requests all but equate his own electoral victory with divine salvation for America. Cruz even has the audacity to call his candidacy a “revival” and “awakening” — as in, the Great Awakenings — and many Christian audiences are eating it up.

Marco Rubio is trying to follow the formula too. In a recent campaign ad, for example, Rubio recites a string of Christian catchphrases and biblical allusions so generic that they offer zero insight into his personal faith.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who is interested in the evangelical vote formula exactly insofar as it helps him be the best, hugest, most successful candidate ever — and no farther. Trump knows he needs to say some Christian stuff, but he’s doing the absolute minimum to pass this test.

I know this because that’s what he word-vomited at a rally in Iowa the last week in December. “I even brought my Bible — the evangelicals, OK?” Trump said. “We love the evangelicals and we’re polling so well.”

In case the point of waving around the Bible wasn’t perfectly clear, he added one more time: “I really want to win Iowa — and again, the evangelicals, the Tea Party — we’re doing unbelievably, and I think I’m going to win Iowa.”

Trump’s transparent pandering has been controversial among conservative evangelicals but oddly successful. To be sure, many Christians, including yours truly, have questioned or criticized Trump’s candidacy on moral grounds. Writing at The New York Times, for instance, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore argued that for evangelical Christians to support Trump means “we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist ‘winning’ trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society. To back Mr. Trump,” Moore summarized, “[evangelical] voters must repudiate everything they believe.”

But polls consistently find Trump at or near the top of evangelical Republicans’ list, so his pandering seems to work.

Huckabee’s outburst and Trump’s farce are two sides of the same phenomenon: the inevitable unraveling of an election dynamic that has become too absurd a caricature to continue. While Cruz seems on track to execute a classic fulfillment of the “Christian candidate” formula, his performance may well be one of the last of its kind. Huckabee might be right: The best GOP candidate for conservative Christians’ political goals may not be the best actual Christian.

That may seem like a frightening prospect for a post-Obama Republican Party searching for its identity as it loses demographic ground. But however the next few elections shake out, disintegration of the GOP’s wrong-headed obsession with the “Christian candidate” is much overdue.

 

By: Bonnie Kristian, The Week, January 18, 2016

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Evangelicals, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Oh Please!”: Huckabee Peers Up At Cruz In The Polls, Attacks Him For Lack Of Hysteria On Marriage Equality

In one of the more, er, interesting Invisible Primary diversions of the holiday season, on Wednesday Politico‘s Mike Allen tried to win the morning with a breathless report that Texas senator Ted Cruz told a private “moderate” fund-raising audience in sinful New York that rolling back marriage equality would not be a “top-three” priority. Allen found out about this shocking indiscretion via a “secret tape” sent to him by a shocked witness.

Truth is that in the same breath Cruz folded the fight against marriage equality into his “top priority,” which he describes as “defending the Constitution.” He also reminded listeners that he has long favored letting the states set marriage policies, as they generally do subject to constitutional conditions.

Not to put too fine a gloss on it, Mike Allen manufactured a “controversy” out of this nothing-burger of a quote, presumably because it could get the recently high-flying Cruz in trouble both with Christian Right activists ever alert to their issues sliding down the priority list, and with Republican voters concerned with “authenticity.” Cruz, you see, has always raised suspicions that he’s a sort of an Elmer Gantry figure, a slick Ivy Leaguer pulling the wool over the eyes of the Folks.

Personally, I think such charges have it backwards; if anyone’s getting zoomed by Ted Cruz, it’s the sophisticates who think he would be a regular old-school Republican if elected president. But that’s probably because I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the apocalyptic ravings of his favorite warm-up act and father, the Reverend Ted Cruz.

So far the only fallout from the Cruz/Allen “scandal” is the understandable reaction of Mike Huckabee, who is peering up at Ted Cruz in the poll rankings and wondering how he lost his long-established conservative evangelical base in Iowa to a Cuban-American. According to (naturally) Politico, Huck rose to the occasion:

“Conservatives are being asked to ‘coalesce’ around yet another corporately-funded candidate that says something very different at a big donor fundraiser in Manhattan than at a church in Marshalltown,” Huckabee said in a statement released by his campaign Wednesday afternoon. “Shouldn’t a candidate be expected to have authenticity and consistency, instead of having to look at a map to decide what to believe and what to say?”

Cruz’s answer to the “top-three” question may have struck a chord with Huckabee because the former Arkansas governor has issued his own “top-three” statement, allowing as how he’ll fold his presidential campaign if he doesn’t get one of those legendary three tickets out of Iowa. That will only happen over Ted Cruz’s dead (political) body, so no wonder Huck’s trying to take him down.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 24, 2015

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Evangelicals, Marriage Equality, Mike Huckabee | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Making Ridiculous Claims On Purpose”: Huckabee: Obama May Want People ‘To Memorize Koran Verses’

When it comes to right-wing rejection of Syrian refugees, Mike Huckabee was ahead of the curve. Back in September, when most policymakers were debating how many – not if – the United States would welcome fleeing families, Huckabee asked, “Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we’ve got cable TV?”

After the terrorist violence in Paris, the former Arkansas governor’s posture took an even uglier turn. After Huckabee used the attacks as a rationale for scrapping the Iran nuclear deal – he didn’t seem to realize ISIS and Iran are bitter enemies – he went on to say refugees should “end up in the neighborhood where the limousine liberal lives” or perhaps the “dorm rooms” at the University of Missouri.

This week, however, Huckabee is shifting his focus, directing his ire away from the refugees and towards the president trying to show leadership on the issue. Politico reported:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee charged Monday that President Barack Obama’s “new domestic terrorism plan probably requires Americans to memorize Koran verses.”

That line – which has no basis in fact – came in a new op-ed the 2016 Republican presidential candidate penned for FoxNews.com.

“Why does the Obama administration express more outrage at conservatives than at radical Islamic terrorists? President Obama seems more interested in protecting the reputation of Islam than protecting the American people,” Huckabee wrote.

The Republican added that the refugees would be “unchecked” and “unscreened,” which is a brazen lie.

Note, the fact that this was written is no small detail. It’s easy to say stupid things on the fly, without giving the comments forethought, but when a national candidate writes ridiculous arguments in a published piece, it reinforces the deliberate nature of the absurdity.

In other words, Huckabee didn’t just blurt out nonsense in an interview, failing to think his argument through; he went to the trouble of thinking about it, writing it down, and making ridiculous claims on purpose.

We talked briefly about this yesterday, but I think the larger point isn’t that Huckabee has the capacity to be an offensive buffoon. We already knew that. The broader concern is that much of the political establishment likes to think of Huckabee as a charming, avuncular guy who’s easily to admire.

It’s past time for pundits to reassess those assumptions. Huckabee isn’t just some conservative political personality – he’s an anti-gay attack dog, someone who embraces racially charged conspiracy theories, and a snake-oil salesman with a record of over-the-top vitriol.

His Fox News op-ed is a reminder that the Beltway pundits who tell the public that Huckabee is a great guy apparently don’t know what they’re talking about.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Mike Huckabee, Racism, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Irony Of Turkeys Being Excluded”: Here Comes The New (Old) Whine About GOP Debates

Just as the intended lynch mob aimed at Republican debate moderators began to disperse in disarray, we have a new source of candidate complaints and it’s the one that generated the fine old whine we heard earlier in the cycle: the thresholds set for participation in the Main and “undercard” events using national polls. What’s changed are the candidates most affected.

According to CNN Money, two candidates, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, have been dropped from the Big Stage for failing to average 2.5% in recent national polls, and two others, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, won’t even get a seat at the kiddie table because they didn’t reach 1% in any of them.

Huck can make an argument that he’s totally focused on Iowa, though he’s not exactly on fire even there. And Christie has obviously been concentrating his limited resources on NH, where the latest poll (from WBUR) has him in 5th place with 8%. But the New Jersey governor’s bigger complaint might be that his performance in the CNBC debate, and the video of his rap on addiction that has gone near-viral, show a campaign that has risen from the dead even as some (Jeb! Jeb!) have squandered every advantage.

The two “bumped” candidates pretty much just grumbling right now; this is, after all, Fox we are talking about, and there’s only so much smack you can talk about those guys if you are a Republican who wants to get free exposure on Ailes’ various networks.

The real howling is coming from Graham, who’s come up with this novel reason for being kept on stage to croak War! War! War! like some sort of Low Country raven:

“It is ironic that the only veteran in the race is going to be denied a voice the day before Veterans Day,” Graham campaign manager Christian Ferry said.

I guess if the debate was being held a couple of weeks later a few candidates could salute the irony of turkeys being excluded. Maybe I should feed that line to Donald Trump.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 7, 2015

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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