I’m sorry — I don’t care if 60% of voters in the Iowa caucuses this week are born-again evangelicals. There is still really no logical explanation as to why Mike Huckabee came in first — just an emotional one. Granted, there are about 28 or so states to go, and this is only the first (not to mention one with few delegates), but still, how does one explain why people would consider someone with no foreign policy experience during wartime a viable candidate to run the Free World?
Mike HICKabee plays on what we political strategists technically call the “Schmo Factor”. (Actually, I’m the only strategist who calls it that, but I’m desperately hoping that it catches on.)
In other words, people look at this guy and they think, “He freely admits his screw-ups, he doesn’t really seem to take himself too seriously, and he’s a Baptist minister who just kind of likes yukking it up with the congregation. How much damage could this hick really do?”
See, here HICKabee is, playing his guitar while wearing pants that stretch virtually up to his neck:
Harmless, right? Especially compared to Giuliani — who’s savvy, experienced, and will eviscerate anyone who crosses him — from terrorists to the mailman. Apparently Huckabee’s campaign is so honest and raw that one of his advisors said he wanted to knock out Mitt Romney’s teeth. Really, how much more “folksy” can you get?! But I don’t doubt for a second that it’s not the exact STRATEGY of the Huckabee campaign to come across as raw and unpolished.
Here’s the truth about the Huckabee campaign — it’s being run by one of the most brilliant political minds going back to the days of Reagan’s landslide 1984 victory. The world of political strategy is a small one in which everyone knows everyone, and I can tell you, as a fact, that Ed Rollins is a genius. His positioning of Huckabee as a harmless, aw-shucks, down home, folksy, non-institutional, fresh blood candidate is proof of his brilliance.
It’s impossible for Huckabee to compete with Giuliani on experience or track record. So his strategy is to connect with voters as “one of them”. And so far, it seems to be working, particularly in the socially conservative and more religious areas.
On the Democratic side, Obama is more or less doing the same thing. Despite lacking experience, he’s seen as fresh blood, while Clinton is viewed as the far more institutional candidate.
Bottom line: At some point, as the election approaches, the serious issues and hard questions are going to come more clearly into focus, and charisma (or whatever Mike Huckabee has) — while important — will become less so. The question will then become, “Who has the experience and capability of dealing with a war on terrorism, a possible economic downturn, the emergence of China and Russia as new powers?”
Or at least that had better be the question voters start asking themselves. Giuliani has taken out the mob in New York City — I can’t even envision Huckabee popping a zit. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Iran’s Ahmadinejad and bin Laden can’t either.