Huckabee: Guns, God and rock'n'roll
By GUARDIAN UNLIMITED
Added: Thu, 03 Jan 2008 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Linda Ward Selbie for the link.
Ewen MacAskill in Des Moines
Thursday January 3, 2008
God and rock'n'roll were invoked by the Republican Mike Huckabee in his final campaign rally in Iowa, with quotes from the Book of Isaiah and calls for tonight's caucus-goers to get on their knees to ask for God's wisdom.
The former governor of Arkansas and Baptist preacher then strapped on a bass guitar to join the Boogie-Woogers in Sweet Home Alabama, Twist and Shout and Blue Suede Shoes.
The rally at the Val-Air ballroom in west Des Moines marked the end of an extraordinary Iowa campaign, both poorly funded and unconventional, which saw Huckabee jump from outsider to frontrunner.
The success of his social-conservative pitch - Christianity, anti-abortion, liberal gun laws and low taxes - was evident in the ballroom's snow-covered car park, which was jammed.
Among the 2,000 people crowded into the ballroom was Jack Yoesi, 55, who drove almost 1,000 miles from Virginia with his wife and five children to support Huckabee. "He best represents my values: conservative values of family, faith and freedom," he said.
The influential Christian radio network in Iowa is urging listeners to get out tonight to participate in the caucuses. About 40% of Republicans in the state are part of the Christian right, and Huckabee, who believes in creationism - that the world was created by God in seven days - has won public support from 90 of the state's pastors.
Huckabee is part of a battle for a new direction for the post-Bush Republican party. His mother grew up with "dirt floors and outdoor toilets"; he is part of a redneck insurgency, outside the traditional mainstream represented by Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.
Promoting his image as the humble man of the people, Huckabee won the second-biggest cheer of the night when he told the audience: "I am not asking to rule but to serve. You are the ruling class." The biggest cheer came when he introduced his biggest celebrity supporter, the martial arts actor Chuck Norris, whom he described as "a great American hero". Norris praised Huckabee for fighting a clean campaign, unlike Romney, who has spent millions on a series of anti-Huckabee ads. "Let me tell you, I am getting tired of this negative campaigning," the actor said.
He either did not know or chose to ignore Huckabee's press conference on Monday in which the former governor announced he had decided against running an ad criticising Romney as "dishonest' - and then proceeded to show it to the media, thereby securing publicity.
Eric Woolson, Huckabee's Iowa campaign manager, said it was hard to predict whether there would be a voter backlash from the tactic. But he said he remained confident that his candidate would do well - he confirmed that a plane was booked for tonight to fly to New Hampshire for the next stage of the campaign. Outsiders tend to drop out if they have a poor showing in Iowa.
Woolson played down the significance of Christian evangelical support: "He has support across the board," he said. "I am a Roman Catholic."
The outcome tonight "depends on the level of volunteer enthusiasm", he added.
One of those that Huckabee is relying on is Greg Brown, who was in the audience. Brown, who works in insurance in Des Moines and is a member of the Cornerstone Family Church, said he would be taking part in a caucus for the first time at the age of 46 to vote for the former pastor.
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