Fred wowed ‘em, the crowd loved McCain’s rejoinder to the Code Pink protester, Mitt Romney’s video went over well, and Rudy Giuliani earned their respect. But the guy who absolutely looked the most at home before the NRA today was probably Mike Huckabee.
Beginning with a jab at Rosie O’Donnell, and saying that because he was underdressed, he felt “as out of place as George Soros at an American Legion post”, Huckabee used humor and homespun anecdotes to prove his bona fides as “one of them.”
He made a fairly sharp observation when he mildly mocked other politicians who answer a question about the Second Amendment with hunting stories, pointing out that the Second Amendment, while guaranteeing a hunter’s right to own a firearm, is not about establishing a right to hunt, it is about a right to own a firearm for personal protection. The NRA is made up of two distinct groups (with a bit of an overlap) – hunters (usually owning shotguns and rifles) and those who own handguns for personal protection. The latter is often forgotten about, lives all over the country, and is often not terribly motivated by rhetoric about hunting.
Huckabee then followed that story, of course, with a hunting story of his own, about successfully hunting an antelope in Wyoming in snowy, windy weather with his Weatherby 300 mag.
He hit all the organization’s key, lesser-known issues: He denouncing the seizure of gun owners’ legal firearms in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He said he was, as far as he knew, the first governor to have a concealed carry permit. He talked about a shotgun with a rusty barrel that he received from his father that he wouldn’t sell for a million dollars. (Then he said, “okay, for a million, I guess you can have it.”) He said that “watching ducks land on a lake in Arkansas in the winter is about the closest to Heaven as you can find on this earth… and as someone who believes, according to my faith, I will go to Heaven when I die, I am pretty sure that there is duck hunting in Heaven!” Needless to say, the crowd loved it.
It wasn’t all jokes and one-liners, of course. He almost got the crowd misty-eyed when he talked about his late father’s gun, and how fathers like to pass down memories to their children, and how he hopes to pass on his guns to his children. He concluded, “I can’t imagine any father saying to his child, ‘when I die, I’m going to leave you my PlayStation.”
When Huckabee responded to a question about UN efforts to restrict gun ownership by suggesting he wouldn’t be upset if “the whole thing broke off from Manhattan Island and started to float away into the East River,” he was greeted with people leaping to their feet for a standing ovation and roars of “YEAAAHHH!!!”
Of course, Huckabee speaking masterfully and wowing a crowd of gun-owners isn’t really shocking. If laughs and applause could be converted to campaign donations, Huckabee might be leading this race.