Huckabee on the vagaries of public attention

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican who won the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, was in Iowa today for two political fundraisers.  During an appearance in Des Moines at an Iowa Family Policy Center event, Huckabee talked about how the public pays attention to politics compared to how the public pays attention to television.

“You would think that being a candidate for president would matter more than hosting a talk show,” Huckabee said this afternoon. “Apparently not.”

In Huckabee’s own words, from this afternoon’s speech (and here’s the audio – 16 min):

“During those early days in Iowa nobody stopped me and said, ‘Oh, I know. You’re that guy running for president.’ No, not at all. And even after the campaign had ended what was really amazing to me was how few people really paid that much attention to politics and here’s what’s a little scary:  after the campaign had ended and despite a better-than-expected run — we didn’t get the delegates and didn’t win the nomination, had to go on to other things — I’d be traveling the country and not that many people would notice unless they were political junkies…and they’d either think I was the guy that ran for president or the guy that sold them a used car last year.  Some of them didn’t know the difference.

“But then something happened.  I started doing a weekly television show on the FOX News Channel and folks I want to tell you it’s a little scary how much more influence television seems to have on the American psyche than running for president of the United States does because once that started, the recognition level went up dramatically and when I say it’s a little spooky, it is bizarre because you would think that being a candidate for president would matter more than hosting a talk show.  Apparently not.

“Except once in a while there are those moments that bring one down to Earth.  I’m on planes four and five days a week these days, traveling all the time and I’m in the Atlanta airport almost constantly to the point that I know most of the Delta employees there by name and they know me by name…because when you fly as many miles as I do, they look after their customers that keep them in business.  I’m almost single-handedly keeping them in business these days. (The crowd laughed.)

“Well, I was in there one day and is often the case they would ask me to sign things and have pictures made with some of the employees with their relatives and I was taking some photos and I was signing some books and a young lady who was in the Delta Sky Club…was watching this going on and I’m sure she was thinking, ‘Hmm.  I don’t know who that guy is, but people are having their picture made with him.’

“She gets up and walks over.  She’s a young lady, very attractive, in her twenties it looks like to me and she comes over and she says, ‘Excuse me, have I seen you on television?”

“And I said, ‘You might have.’

“And she said, ‘Hm, you’re in politics, aren’t you?’

“I thought, ‘Oh, okay, she recognizes me.’  I said, ‘Yes, I am.’

“She said, ‘I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.  You’re Bob Dole, aren’t you!’

“True story folks.  Look, I love Senator Dole.  He is a dear, dear American patriot and a wonderful guy, but he is 85 years old.

(The crowd laughs)

“That really hurt and I really don’t appreciate you thinking it was that funny either. But if it’s any consolation, my wife thought it was even funnier than you did.”

Here’s my story on I’ll be back later with a post about the Iowa Family Policy Center event.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. Thank you for posting the article and the link to listen to the audio. Here is a link that has a video of an interview with Gov. Huckabee


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