Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Huckabee: Running or Selling?

Huckabee: Running or Selling?

It's hard to get a big juicy story out of the sixth stop on a seven stop trip, and so it was for me and Mike Huckabee yesterday.

Huckabee was Officially in the state to sell and sign copies of his latest book, "A Simple Government." Conventional wisdom is that the 2008 caucus winner, with a new mortgage and a lucrative Fox News gig, is NOT running next year. But of course, book tours don't just randomly come to Iowa.

At 3:52, eight minutes to announced start time, the line was 40 or so bodies long; it grew to 75 unique folks as the signing progressed, plus a few who circled around for a second helping.

The first dude in line was student Zach Allee, an `08 Huckabee backer who said "our beliefs and ideals line up well." He'd been in line an hour; a respectable wait but not an all-night Sarah Palin campout. The faithful were a good mix of young and old.

Huckabee, of course, was officially on hand to sell and sign books, but once he was done with the personal signing and greeting (which he managed to keep fresh; the "what's your major" line was generic but the conversations that followed were unique to each fan) he had time to chat with us liberal conspiracy media types while he generically signed another stack of books.

Huckabee, in a McCain-like move that I mean in a good way, took a moment to shake hands and get names from each reporter and promised to "ignore you if you don't like our questions."

Naturally, he says he's undecided about another run but he's "gathering information," though even he notes that "anyone here to stand in line isn't going to say they hate my guts." He offered praise for governors as presidential candidates, saying they have run "a microcosm of the federal government."

"I was governor of Arkansas an extraordinarily long time - 11 years," he said, though the 2008 caucus winner should be well aware that by the Iowa incumbent's standards, that's not much.

"I predicted that train wreck on page 35 of this book," said Huckabee, in a perfect politics meets sales reply, when I asked him about the battle of Wisconsin. "And I wrote that last July."

"When you have a public sector union bargaining with state government, they're bargaining with a third party's money, that of the taxpayers. Neither one of them have skin in the game."

When asked about Libya and the other revolutions of the Middle East, Huckabee focused first on his own numerous trips to the region, listing countries and including, with emphasis, 15 trips to Israel. He also talked about personally negotiating trade missions with heads of state before turning to the focus of the question. Huckabee said the revolutions were legitimate attempts to claim freedom, but was concerned about the power vacuums in countries like Libya with no institutional infrastructure. It would be said for Egypt, he said, if all their sacrifices only led to a Muslim Brotherhood government. "If there's a vacuum, the most organized entity has a foothold."

Unfortunately, Huck turned his attention to the folks taking a second trip through the line before I was able to ask the music fan for his review of Lady Gaga's new single and segue into marriage equality.

Traded some chit-chat with some of the local Republicans about how Florida was playing primary-date leapfrog with us; one speculated that we'd end up "somewhere in the 20's" of January while another hoped RNC chair Reince Priebus -- I'm gonna love typing THAT name the next couple o' years - will be able to persuade Florida.

Huckabee was accompanied by a handful of slightly vague staff from "the speaker's bureau." Their shirts bore logos for Huck's day gig employer, Fox News, for the publisher, and Huckabee's name.

There were also a handful of self-ID'd "volunteers" taking names and urging book buyers to join "Team Huck." Just in case.

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