Huck's Hope?

by | January 19, 2008

I wrote about Huckabee's gloomy prospects tonight below, though I'll probably watch my predictions turn to dust in two hours or so. But if Huck survives tonight -- and if he can shrug off his burdensome shtick and bring his campaign from political adolescence into adulthood -- I still think he has a chance on February 5 and in a general election, Mitt Romney's delegate-assembling genius notwithstanding.

In Iowa, Noam introduced you all to Monica Green, a former Republican caucusing with the Democrats for the first time in order to support Obama. I want to introduce you to the Republican equivalent down here. Her name is Jana Daley, and she's a UNC-Chapel Hill law school grad and home-school mom who's been one of the most active volunteers at Huckabee's Columbia headquarters. "I've always been a Democrat," Jana told me when I met her at the Huckabee headquarters. "This is the first time I've supported a Republican for president."

Her daughters and a gaggle of other home-school kids in residence have transformed a back kitchen at the headquarters into a makeshift decor studio, smearing the tile floors with paint and turning out so many tempera signs ("I Heart Mike, Do You?"'; "MH" surrounded by four red crosses; "Mike Huckabee, Futer President") that Chez Huckabee, Columbia branch, looks more like a daycare than a campaign location.

Jana and her husband got hooked on Huckabee after watching him on YouTube. They like him for his social conservatism and his values, but also for the more traditionally liberal attitudes towards the poor he manifested in Arkansas, like his interest in children's health care there and improving state schools. Contemplating Barack Obama's appeal, her husband observes that Huckabee and Obama both "want to care for the least of their brothers."

About Monica Green up in Iowa, Noam wrote, "My sense about people like Monica is that they've actually been Democrats for a long time, they just didn't know it." The reverse is probably true about people like Jana. Her social conservatism probably means she no longer had a comfortable place in the Democratic Party. But while Huckabee's not-quite-thoroughbred Arkansas record has, almost without exception, been discussed in the primary race as a liability, it's also a force for drawing fence-sitters --  certain kinds of people who might also be drawn, oddly enough, to Obama.

Jana estimates she has sent 100 emails in recent days encouraging friends to vote for Huck. She writes, "I've been here working on the Huckabee campaign, can I convince you to support him?" When somebody replies with interest, she says the next thing she writes them about is not the FairTax but her perception of Huck's attitude towards the poor, a line of argument that gets a good response. "I think a social conservative who reflects real charity," she says, "could be something different."

-- Eve Fairbanks

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