For most, it’s too early to pay attention to the contenders for president. I can’t say I begrudge them. We are a year removed from having to pull the lever and a case certainly can be made that campaigns for president begin far too early. If all the media is going to do is handicap the horserace and report on non-issues ad nauseum, maybe we ought to look at a two month sprint to the finish line, rather than this capital intensive beauty contest.
Americans are busy people, having managed to get through the summer barbecue season and recently, the World Series. Fall’s here and it's time to focus on football, not to mention that holiday trifecta of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday. Rather than be troubled with things like where candidates stand on the issues and whether or not Mitt, Rudy, Hillary, or Barack have a plan for exiting us from Iraq, we’re focusing our attention on what pie to bake for Thanksgiving and whether or not to buy that large screen television they’ve been hankering for and calling it a Christmas gift.
I’ve definitely dialed down my fixation (or what some might call, obsession) with following every detail of the presidential campaign. I used to regularly track the front-runners and follow the field all the way to the back of pack, where presidential posers reside, but I’ve backed off a bit from scrutiny of each and every nuance. I still regularly check polls, watch debates (or better, choreographed sound bites) and even look at each candidate’s website for policy details, to see if they actually have a plan on how they might govern.
On the Democratic side, there really isn’t much drama. Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, for better, or worse. Obama has been underwhelming, to say the least. John Edwards, freed from the constraints of being vice-presidential in 2004, has been acting like the attack dog, actually talking about issues that affect ordinary Americans and holding Clinton’s feet to the fire. Unfortunately, his wife’s occasional missives get more mainstream coverage than his solid grasp of the issues. The only other time Edwards seems to get any media up tick is when it’s time for him to get a haircut.
The real drama in this race seems to be on the Republican side. While Romney and Giuliani have been running towards the front of the GOP pack, far right conservatives have been lukewarm towards those two. Many representing the rabid element on the far right fringe are uncomfortable with Mitt, the Mormon and a so-called “moderate,” like Giuliani, because he won’t pass the one-issue litmus test on abortion with the bible-thumpers.
To satisfy elements at the base of the party, new blood, in the form of Fred Thompson, has mounted a challenge to Mitt and Rudy. Having played president on the silver screen, Thompson immediately gained traction upon his entry, for a party that has a propensity for actors in high places.
Recently, Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, has been making a bit of noise, sprinting from the back of the pack and getting some exposure and press, heading into the Iowa caucus. A recent University of Iowa poll shows Huckabee in a virtual dead heat with the other frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani. This is great news for Huckabee, a virtual unknown to most Americans, outside of Arkansas.
The results of the poll, conducted October 17-24 and released Monday show Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had 36.2 percent of Republican support, followed by Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, with 13.1 percent and Huckabee at 12.8 percent, the poll showed.
An analysis of the poll highlighted Huckabee's shift in support among voters, most likely evangelical Christians. In the August survey, taken right before the GOP straw poll in Ames, Huckabee had the support of less than 2 percent of Republicans.
David Redlawsk, a Univeristy of Iowa professor of political science and the co-director of UI’s Hawkeye Poll indicated that Republican candidates that want to challenge “must motivate Christian conservatives,” which is a group that Redlawsk recognizes as a key to Huckabee’s surge.
Well-known evangelical pastor, the purposeful Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, one of America’s largest megachurches, recently issued the following statement on his radio program.
“I know most of the candidates running for president but I’ve known Mike Huckabee the longest, since we did our graduate degrees together in the late 70s. Mike’s a man of vision, compassion, and integrity. I’ve watched his uncanny ability to identify with normal people in ways that many leaders don’t. That’s probably why TIME named him one of the five best governors in America. He’s definitely presidential material. But honestly, what I find most appealing is his self-deprecating humor. That’s a key sign of a spiritually and emotionally healthy leader - someone who is comfortable with himself, is authentic, doesn’t wear a mask, and is secure enough to be humble. People love that.”
Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, has the Christian cred to energize the followers of Jesus. Like another former Arkansas governor, born in Hope, Huckabee is someone that arrived at the dance late, without a lot of name recognition, but history tells us what happened to the other guy, who is out campaigning to become America’s first, "First Husband."
Like William Jefferson Clinton, Huckabee has some campaign skills and positions that connect with enough Americans to make him potential dark horse on the GOP side. Better yet, he actually has some qualities of governance that matter. Money will be an issue, as it is for everyone but the top four (Romney, Giuliani, Clinton and Obama); if Huckabee can finish a solid third in Iowa and make some solid early showings in New Hampshire, Michigan and Florida, heading into February’s Super Tuesday, he might just make it interesting on the right side of the presidential ticket.