Friday Afternoon - Mike Huckabee Rally in Henniker
Jan 4, 2008
|After lunch at a great sub shop near the St. Anselm campus, we drove on to New England College in Henniker NH, about half-an-hour away. NEC is a small college, founded in 1947 and located in a small, out-of-the-way town.
We were at NEC to attend a Mike Huckabee rally in the college gymnasium. We arrived about an hour before the scheduled opening-of-the-doors at 3:15. Standing outside, we met a retired couple from the Dartmouth area (Roger and Chris Berger); Roger is a Colgate graduate and Chris is the daughter of a long-time Colgate physics professor. They were there to see if they should consider switching their allegience from John McCain to Mike Huckabee -- inspired by Huckabee's victory in Iowa.
After exploring the NEC campus and bookstore for a while, we were able to get into the gym and settle into good seats near the stage. The gym never filled up competely and, despite the efforts of a local rock band ("Mama Kicks"), the excitement level never rose a great deal.
After about an hour of Mama Kicks, Huckabee entered, accompanied by his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Norris. First the lead singer of the band briefly introduced Huckabee, who picked up a bass guitar and jammed for 3 or 4 songs with the band. We can say that he is unquestionably the most qualified bass player among the major presidential candidates.
Chuck Norris then took the stage, to explain why he and the missus were supporting Huckabee (he never made that particularly clear). A group of young men (High School students, probably) in the bleachers were obviously much more interested in hearing Chuck Norris than Gov. Huckabee, frequently interrupting his remarks with cheers, but eventually Norris turned the microphone over to Huckabee.
Huckabee lived up to his billing as a warm, laid-back, likeable guy, but we found his policy positions to be both fuzzy and unattractive. It appeared to us that the crowd was mostly there out of curiousity, rather than to express their support for Huckabee, and although he was received politely, there was no real electricity in the room. It seemed to be more of an "appearance" than a "rally."
Later, on the political Web site, Politico, two reporters noted that Huckabee was retooling his message for NH, a state much less dominated by evangelical voters than Iowa. The reporters, Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Martin, summarized the event this way:
In his stump speech, Huckabee [is focusing] less on social issues and more on his support for a national sales tax, the FairTax, a vehicle that enables him to rail against the IRS and income taxes generally.
In Henniker, he gave his populist economic message a distinctly New Hampshire flavor, stressing rising costs for the middle class, health care and the importance of local governance.
"What we ought to have is strong states, strong local government," said Huckabee. "New Hampshire knows something about that, believes in it. We have to stop the process that has moved away from that."
Conspicuously missing from the stump speech were the social issues that won over conservative Christian voters in Iowa. Huckabee said nothing about abortion, sanctity of marriage or his personal faith, usually standard aspects of his stump speech. . . .
Roughly 500 people showed up on Friday night in Henniker to see Huckabee speak and play classic hits like "Mustang Sally" and "In the Midnight Hour."
The oldies music didn't quite match the younger crowd. It didn't much matter: Few of the younger voters were there for Huckabee anyhow.
For many of the teenaged boys who showed up by the dozens, one man, and one man only, was the draw: Chuck Norris. Huckabee was continuously interrupted by loud chants of "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck" and calls for Norris to run for president.
The post-speech chatter at a pizza place near the debate site was less about political change and almost entirely about the B-list action star.
"Mom, I talked to Chuck Norris," shouted one teenage boy into a cell phone. "Yeah, Huckabee or whatever was there."
After the event ended, we had about an hour's drive back to our hotel in Andover (punctuated by dinner at Panera Bread). Enough for one day!