Looking like a morph between John Hutton and Robert Lindsay, former Arkansas governor Huckabee got 34% of the Iowa vote, 9% in front of Mitt Romney, who had expected to win after spending heavily. Everyone else was a long way behind.
A surprise result, according to most of the news sites, and especially to me, as the last time I looked at the Republican race in any detail (which was about October, I think), the front-runners were Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain, with Ronald Reagan wannabee Fred Thompson as a wild card outsider. Huckabee didn't even figure on the menu - he was out there with principled no-hopers like the libertarian congressman Ron Paul. But here he is with 34%.
Of course, Huckabee has God On His Side - his main strength seems to be that he is the 'genuine article' religious conservative. Evangelicals have serious doubts about the relatively late conversion of Romney to the anti-abortion platform, and Giuliani is viewed in certain parts as pretty much a Satanist for his pro-choice stance. All this plays pretty well with a certain constituency of Republican voters - who I guess are probably the same kind of people who can be bothered to turn up at caucus meetings in the middle of winter in Iowa. You know... the hardcore.
I checked out the Huckabee site and the initial quote from him on there is not promising:
I think the country is looking for somecody who is vertical, who is thinking, 'let's take America up and not down.'
A vertical candidate's probably preferable to a horizontal one - I'll give him that. But surely the vertical axis runs up and down? I mean, what is this cack? A click on 'learn more' takes us to the blog page, with a roll of about 200 Huckabee-supporting blogs. Jeez, Mick... "there's too many of them". I'll be restarting Hal's Friday Evening Blog Review as Huckerbee's Sunday Evening Blog Review (the day of the Lord) in a couple of days' time.
God-fearing Democrats and even the odd agnostic will probably be praying tonight that Huckabee continues to gather momentum to the extent that Giuliani's campaign pretty much collapses before 'Super Tuesday' in early February, where he's spending most of his campaign funds on trying to get a big result in Florida and other key states. If Huckabee can mop up the Romney and Thompson support he certainly stands a reasonable chance of getting the Republican nomination, and that would be the biggest help to the Democrats since the days of 1964 and Barry Goldwater. That is, of course, assuming that hardcore religious conservatism, making even George Bush look wishy-washy, is a big turnoff to a large enough section of the US electorate. If it isn't, then we really are in big Barney Rubble. But back to that sometime soon...
It should be stressed however that this is VERY early days. If Iowa turns out to be a complete freak-out and Romney does well in New Hampshire and the other primaries over the next few weeks, Huckabee will be out of the race probably by the end of February. However, no-one in the US (or UK) media predicted this result so I don't feel particularly compelled to stick to the form-book any time in the near future. Next post... the Democratic race.