Huckabee’s skills

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spoke with a group of reporters in Des Moines Saturday night before the Iowa GOP’s fall banquet got underway.  Someone asked him about fundraising, Huckabee reported that his fundraising last week had equalled the amount he raised in the first three months of the year.

I asked a follow up:  "People are sort of puzzled that a minister who gives, you know, an annual stewardship drive sermon to his flock hadn’t heretofore raised the money?"

Huckabee responded:  "It’s really a matter of we had a much later start.  Unlike other candidates who could prime the pump with their own money or could transfer some from the federal accounts, we had to start from zero…."  Read more in this Radio Iowa story.

Another reporter asked Huckabee about charges that he is not a fiscal conservative — a new charge came today from the Club for Growth, BTW.  Oh, and Huckabee’s answer came a few hours after he’d gone pheasant hunting in Iowa.

"I’m just flattered to be attacked…A good hunter never puts the crosshairs on a dead carcas, so the fact that now I’m under relentless attack is an indication that somebody thinks I’m alive and well," Huckabee said.  "My record is an incredibly good one.  It is that of a fiscal conservative and objective people will see it.  This is politics.  We can expact attacks. Before it’s over, they’ll be people accusing me of everything from the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa to the Kennedy assassination."

Some of Huckabee’s personable political skills, perhaps learned when he served in the pulpit rather than the Arkansas statehouse, were on display Saturday night.

Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad repeatedly impressed visitors to his office in the Iowa statehouse by his memory of a visit to their town or a shared recollection about someone from that town.  (Branstad made a visit to each of Iowa’s 99 counties at least once a year during his 16-year-run as governor.) Huckabee, like Branstad, is someone who remembers personal details.   For example, this past weekend when he walked up to that group of reporters in Des Moines, Huckabee complimented a reporter on his new glasses.  Huckabee and this male reporter hadn’t been in the same room for over two months, but Huckabee noticed the new glasses.

Huckabee wore a light blue tie with dozens of tiny white elephants splattered across it to deliver his Saturday night speech.  I jokingly asked him about the tie.

"This is my true-blue-Republican elephant tie.  Where else can I wear this?" Huckabee responded with a laugh.

"Is it made in the USA?" I asked.

Huckabee flipped the tie over to display the label.  "I’ll hold it up close so you can see it.  I know you told me your eyes aren’t very good.  Look at that — USA," Huckabee said to me. 

Another personal detail remembered, filed away in his mind, and pulled out for use on Saturday.   

Huckabee’s other skill as an orator was on display a few hours later when he got his turn at the microphone Saturday night.  I’m transcribing his closing comments for you, with some notes about pacing and delivery to show that he knows how to "play" a crowd and get an emotional response. 

"I’m obviously here, like every other presidential candidate, for one purpose and it’s not to eat the chicken dinner," Huckabee said slowly, pausing at the end of the sentence to let the crowd laugh. 

The crowd started laughing. 

Then, Huckabee picked up the pace of his delivery just a bit. "Nothing wrong with chicken dinner because we produce a lot of chicken in Arkansas," Huckabee said, as the laughter started building in teh room  "We want you to eat chicken.  Lots of it.  Toss some rice on top of it and we’ll really be proud of ya.  Why there’s not corn on that plate I’ll never understand.  I know where I am tonight," Huckabee said.  The crowd laughed a bit louder.

Next, Huckabee switched to nearly full-on pastor mode.  His pacing — and emphasis on certain words like "understand" — were the cadence of a sermon reaching its zenith.

"But I’m here like every other presidential candidate because I want your vote, I want your support, but not just because I want to be president.  I want to make sure this country is as good to the future generations as it has been to me.  The prophet Isaiah said: ‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn. Look to the quarry from which you were dug.’  I understand something of the rock from which I was hewn and the quarry from which I was dug.  On my mother’s side of the family, I’m one generation away from dirt floors and outdoor toilets. On my father’s side of the family, there’s not a male upstream from me that even graduated high school.  Ladies and gentleman, you’re looking at a guy who has absolutely lived and experienced the American Dream. I have freedom today because brave men and women put on the uniform of this country, saluted this flag, took an oath and honored with their very blood and lives their sacred duty to keep guys like me free.  I have an obligation not to just run for president, but to provide the kind of leadership so our children and our grandchildren and the future of this country will know that we have done everything within our power not only to love this country and to enjoy it, but to preserve it, to protect it and to pass it on to the next generation.  Anything less than that does not warrant your support. That does," Huckabee said.

Then, to the close — a direct verbal assault on the two Democrats Republicans loved to hate. 

"I’m often asked, ‘Do you think you can win, particularly against Hillary?’  Folks, may I suggest to you that I’ve been battling against the headwinds of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton’s political machine in Arkansas more than anybody else running for president.  I didn’t just win once, not twice, not three times but four times in a statewide election against the Clinton political machine.  Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton campaigned against me every time I ever ran and I won and they didn’t and next year, the same thing is going to happen in America that happened in Arkansas," Huckabee said.  The crowd had started clapping and he continued to speak over it.  "We win.  They lose and America wins.  A stronger, freer, less expensive nation.  Thank you very much."

Huckabee was the only one of the six candidates who spoke Saturday night to get the crowd to rise to its feet in applause at the conclusion of his speech.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Brings back memories of proud moments in out nation. Remember the ‘Shining City on a Hill’?

  2. One of the finest speeches I’ve ever heard. Regardless of what happens in this race for the nomination, Huckabee is only in his early 50’s and is in a prime position to be on the GOP national stage for a number of years.

  3. Shame on Mike Huckabee. It was Mike Huckabee who raised the issues of a religious test for office, Romney’s faith was a cult, and promoting himself as the “Christian Candidate”.
    Huckabee stands back and acts like an innocent, all the while framing questions about Romney’s faith to be questions of his character and integrity. Shame on Mike Huckabee.
    Paragraph 3, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “. . . all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” – emphasis added.
    Well, so much for the Constitution in Huckabee‘s mind. On the campaign trail to the 2008 presidential election, religious bigotry has reared its ugly head. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon. As his poll numbers continue to rise there is a sudden, alarming amazement, a dread resulting in utter confusion and dismay led by Mike Huckabee!
    In many denominations pastors rely on the church as their source of income. They are good, moral people whom, I believe, earnestly minister to their respective flocks. Yet, it is also their livelihood. Mormons do not pay their leaders and, doctrine aside, evangelical leaders have problems with that. Too, the rapid growth and retention rates of the Mormon Church, coupled with its superlative welfare system have only added grief to the evangelical leadership. So, from the evangelical seminaries to the smallest southern pulpit the Mormon doctrine is attacked.
    Never mind that one would be hard pressed to find a more humble, clean-living, patriotic, law-abiding and civic-minded group of people than a Mormon congregation. Never mind that the church’s name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Never mind that two major articles of their faith are: We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost, and We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. Mormons just cannot be Christians! But they are.
    Pastor turned candidate Mike Huckabee, while speaking (preaching) to the choir at the Values Summit said, “Faith is also threatened, and let me share with you how. I believe that there are many who will seek our support. But let me say that it’s important that people sing from their hearts, and don’t merely lip-synch the lyrics to our songs. I think it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue, and not a recently acquired second language. It’s important that a person doesn’t have more positions on issues that Elvis had waist sizes.” Oh, that was subtle, and hateful. It is just pure religious bigotry; “you can only believe what we say you believe.” And it is offensive to the principle of religious freedom. Where do these ideas come from? Well, just ask Noah Crowe, a Southern Baptist pastor from North Carolina, there’s nothing Romney can do to overcome their distrust of Mormonism. “he studied Mormonism at his evangelical college in a course called Cults and False Religions. He claims there’s nothing Romney can do to overcome their ideas on Mormonism.
    Unfortunately in the evangelical south, such rhetoric has marginalized the most qualified presidential candidate, the one who most shares their value system. Moreover, this consternation is unwarranted.
    More than a few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have served in our Federal Government. Democrat Senator Harry Reid is the current senate majority leader. Ezra Taft Benson, Republican, served as Secretary of Agriculture in Eisenhower’s administration. J. Reuben Clark, Republican, was appointed U.S. State Department Solicitor. In 1928, he was appointed Undersecretary of State. In 1930, ambassador to Mexico. Most in the Republican party know of Paula Hawkins of Florida, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Ron Packard and Ivy Baker Priest of California, and, of course, Orrin Hatch. Democrats know Stewart Udall of Arizona, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Ralph Harding of Idaho
    Indeed, on Stephen M. Studdert, Special Assistant to President Reagan says, “Ronald Reagan truly admired the Latter-day Saints. His administration included more members of the Church than any other American president, ever. Three of us, David Fischer, Gregory Newell and I, served on his personal White House staff. Richard Wirthlin was his chief strategist. Terrel Bell served as Secretary of Education, Bay Buchanan was Treasurer, Rex Lee was Solicitor General. His White House included Roger Porter, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Beal, Blake Parish, Jon Huntsman, Dodie Borup and Rocky Kuonen, and there were many other Latter-day Saints throughout his Administration.
    The list goes on and on. Many more members have served in high and trusted positions throughout the world in business, medicine, law, education, media, sports, and entertainment. Thank goodness. After all, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”