A good analyst has to separate out what he wants to see happen from what is most likely to happen. And so, while I’ve expressed my beefs with Huckabee elsewhere, and while the scenario that is most likely is that Huckabee and Mitt Romney finish within a few points of each other, I wouldn’t be shocked if Huckabee came out and won by a significant margin.
I’m coming to that conclusion based on crowd sizes in recent days. I realize that somebody who shows up to watch a candidate speak isn’t guaranteed to vote for that candidate; still, I think it’s safe to assume that attendees are at least open to the possibility of voting for that candidate.
Chuck Norris and Mike Huckabee shared the stage here Tuesday night at a “Huck and Chuck” event that the campaign claimed drew more than 2,000 people. Whether or not that was accurate, it was clearly a large turnout, and more evidence that taxes, immigration, clemency, foreign policy gaffes, and press conference-gate have not derailed the man from Hope.
Huckabee said there were an estimated 2,000 attendees at the Val Air Ballroom, where the former governor was joined by his wife and Chuck Norris. Huckabee supporters said before the event they were thrilled by the crowd size given the near-zero temperatures outside.
By comparison, Mitt Romney has done “House Party Huddles.”
Romney campaigned through the six different Iowan family homes New Years Day at events called “house party huddles.” The “huddles” were typically hosted by middle to upper class suburban families. One home featured a Reagan portrait on the wall. Another had several framed Bible passages. At one stop, the governor nearly tripped over the family dog that had a flag-themed bandana around its neck.
All houses offered heavy appetizers the kitchen and were outfitted with a microphone sound system for the Governor to use. The crowds ranged roughly from 30-80 supporters at each house and people crammed with reporters and cameramen into hallways, spilled out of dens and sat cross-legged on floors to listen to Romney speak.
I saw Romney on CNN yesterday, doing an event in a living room; it was a charming little abode with a Mitt poster on the fireplace mantle. Still, Romney couldn’t have made his pitch to more than 480 Iowans at those events (6 events, 80 folks per event) while Huckabee made his pitch — along with (eye roll) Chuck Norris — to four times that at one event in Des Moines. And let’s face it – Huckabee is a good pitchman with well-developed speaking and “retail politics” skills. I don’t think too many Iowans attend his events and leave disliking him.
As one campaign strategist for a candidate who rivals both men put it, “If the turnout at candidate events indicates who’s going to show up on caucus night, you don’t have to be a mathmetician to see how this is going to turn out.”
This strategist also offered another theory that sounds credibile. The press shop for Romney, this rival conceded, was “top-flight… truly professional.” By comparison, the Huckabee campaign put on a press conference in which his own staffers didn’t know what the message was going to be fifteen minutes before it started. In the eyes of the press, “one campaign has their stuff together, is operating like a well-oiled machine, the other resembles the Three Stooges…” so, this rival speculated, the press may be overrating Romney’s chances and underrating Huckabee’s chances, assuming that the public will see the same contrast that they do.