I spoke with Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman last night about the Huckabee Christmas ad that has become the talk of the political world. He told me how it got started – the Huckabee team was looking for a way to acknowledge the awkwardness of a hard-fought political campaign going on at Christmastime, and also trying to figure out how to counter the negative ads they (correctly) believed were coming from the Romney camp. So they came up with a pretty simple idea – wish everybody a Merry Christmas – and Huckabee, sitting in a private home in Little Rock, ad-libbed the ad in two quick takes.
Huckabee’s performance, and the “celebration of the birth of Christ” appeal to Christian voters, reminded me of something I discussed with him several weeks ago. From the story:
In October, when he addressed the Values Voters summit in Washington, Huckabee gave the most overtly religious speech I have ever seen any candidate give. He didn’t simply say, as other candidates did, that he shared a common Judeo-Christian heritage with the audience. Instead, his speech was filled with Biblical references. He talked about David and Goliath. About Daniel in the lions’ den. About the loaves and the fishes. About Elijah and prophets of Ba’al. It was serious churchgoing stuff.
I saw Huckabee a week or so later in Iowa, and I asked him whether the speech was too hot to give before a general audience. He seemed a little surprised by the question. “The ultimate purpose of any speech,” he told me, “is to hit the target, and the target is your audience. I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh that was a brilliant speech, I didn’t understand it, it was way over my head, but it was a brilliant speech.’ Well, it wasn’t a brilliant speech. If a shooter consistently hits over the head of the target, it doesn’t prove that he’s a good shooter. It proves he can’t shoot. So the whole point is you aim for the target. The target in that room was people for whom faith was the motivating factor to be involved in public policy.”
Spoken like a true preacher — or politician. Huckabee’s astonishing ability to hit the target is what is shaking up the GOP race now.