Huck a boy!

October 20, 2007, 11:09 am | Posted by

Huckabee floored them. He could do no wrong. His third sentence summarizes the natural advantage that guaranteed him adulation and freed him to talk about whatever he wanted to:

“I stand here not as one who comes to you, but one who comes from you.”

To varying extents, everyone else here had to sell himself to the audience, which took time and focus away from their platforms. Huckabee just got down to preaching.

Well, sort of. The first thing he did was drop an Al Gore joke (probably the 14th I’ve heard here) and then make fun of hippies. After that, though, it was a sermon to a swaying choir. Standing ovations were frequent, sharp whistling pierced the dark air, and the audience sounded like the evangelical congregations I remember from my time in Huckabee’s Arkansas. It wasn’t just “amen,” it was “that’s right,” and “yes”, and “come on, Mike!”

The congregants spent a lot of time on their feet, and I didn’t always understand why. But it was clear that these people love the holy rolling populist preacher. Beyond abortion, same-sex marriage and war!, he talked about some off-beat issues like rebuilding America’s arms-manufacturing base, “feeding ourselves” (agriculturally speaking) and the Fair Tax. No matter what he said, the audience cheered and cheered.

Oh, and he said we might not need so many immigrants if we didn’t abort so many babies.

Most noteworthy, though, was his declaration of independence from the Republican Party, which sounded like a warning:

I don’t want expediency or electability to replace our vales. We live or die by those values,” he said. “I want to make it very clear that I do not spell with ‘G-O-D,’ ‘G-O-P.’ Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important.”

His exit music?

“This is ooouuuur country”

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Rudy: Much better than expected, still miles from the mountaintop

October 20, 2007, 8:32 am | Posted by

Bill Bennett warmed up the crowd for Rudy by speaking about “preemptive cultural surrender” in the war on terror, using the Screwtape Letters to paint liberals as deceptive devils who would lead us to defeat. Enables Rudy to leave it alone for a while.

Rudy started on an entirely different note: shared values and shared goals. He did a decent job of sticking to this theme while also acknowledging his differences with the audience.

His appeal to religion was fascinating: “We’ve gotta find a way to be more inclusive. Christianity is built around inclusion…Isn’t it?” He appealed to Christianity’s early history as a faith that thrived as a result of his message of love, hope, and forgiveness. A mild challenge, and a unique tack.

Think about the implications of the fact that Rudy felt compelled to say “Please know this, you have nothing to fear from me.”

He talked about the private nature of faith in his Roman Catholic upbringing. I don’t know how effective this will be, but I like that he says it.

Still, when he says “I see clearly the value of people of faith” in politics, he reinforces that he is an outsider here. This became especially conspicuous when he spoke of the Constitutional protection of religion rather than America being a Christian nation.

He was at his best when he spoke extensively about driving the pornography out of public view in New York, and about cutting off funding for a religiously offensive exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Very smart, and very well received. His other shrewd move was spending more time on school choice than any other candidate.

Abortion reduction and adoption promotion got plenty of time, but a rather lukewarm response, especially in comparison for other candidates’ calls for outlawing abortion. He got better applause when he talked about the conservative credentials of his judicial advisory board.

His security section, saved for last, was surprisingly nondescript. The only distinguishing factors were his focus on Israel and his mention of Darfur.

His discussion of his personal life was so cursory that it barely warrants mention. He went there, he didn’t have to, and he probably didn’t help himself.

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Friday night with Mitt Romney

October 19, 2007, 7:05 pm | Posted by

Bob Jones III’s endorsement will go a long way in South Carolina, the early primary state in which The Mormon Question loomed largest, but Romney still has everything to gain or lose here in this early stage of his courtship of the Religious Right. Let’s see what kind of response he gets…

A very West Wing entrance, with a side of megachurch. Before any specific observations, I’ve gotta say Mitt nailed it. Hard. A couple of things worked to his advantage: 1) He had 100 campaigners here, according to a leafleteer I asked. 2) He spoke after dinner, when everyone was rested and ready for another round. Best time slot of the day.

He kicked off saying “I’m pro-family on every level, from personal to political…America’s future will not be determined by heads of state, but by heads of households.” For some reason he was interrupted by the loudest applause of the day. Everyone said something to that effect, but when Mitt said it people got amped. Then he quoted CS Lewis. From jump, the crowd popped with a boisterousness not seen all day.

And then…family family family family. He hit on the economic, moral and practical advantages of the two-parent, two-sex family, but skillfully slipped in some respect for single moms such as his sister Jane.

He raised some eyebrows on bloggers row when, after citing the Moynihan report, he said “Hats off to Bill Cosby, by the way, for telling it like it is.” I’d have felt unfair and shameless going there myself, but I’m not Mitt Romney.

He smartly hit the outrage button on the Maine middle school birth control story. Why did others fail to do this?

Did you know that the “strength and preservation of a civilization” is at stake in the same-sex marriage debate? Me neither.

While Romney confessed to being a pro life “convert,” he claimed “I will be a pro-life president, just like I was a pro-life governor.” The applause sounded like buy-in.

“By the way, you might’ve heard that I’m Mormon…”

…Did not lead to The Mormon Speech. Instead of addressing that, he switched gears to talk about how he could keep the Reagan coalition together. Talk about a letdown.

Then it was “We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.” What a zinger.

He wound down by skillfully hammering the family family family message, then backed away to a soundtrack that sounded like hail to the chief with a bass line, looking like a frontrunner.

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VIDEO: the New Evangelical Priorities on CBS Evening News

October 19, 2007, 3:28 pm | Posted by

CBS interviews Wallis and Richard Land on the issues that evangelical Christians care about.

The segment features a new CBS poll which found that the top issues white Evangelicals want to hear candidates discuss are Healthcare (23%) and Iraq (20%); abortion and gay marriage didn’t even crack the top 4 issues. Poverty topped the list (at 33%) when Evangelicals were asked, “Which issue should Evangelical Christians get involved in?”

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Time for… Duncan Hunter & Ron Paul

October 19, 2007, 2:23 pm | Posted by

When the MC announced that Duncan Hunter was next up, somebody a few rows ahead of me spoke a whimsical but loud “yeah,” and people laughed.

Perfunctory applause as he takes the stage. The lunch crowd is still filing back into the ballroom. In case you’re wondering, there was a lovely spread in the media room.

Hunter is the first one to bring up the ACLU. To their credit, the ACLU had a booth in the vendors room. They looked relaxed but determined. Determined to do what, I don’t know.

Hunter just spent 3 1/2 minutes talking about how he saved a cross from being removed from a war memorial.

He’s concerned that the military-industrial manufacturing base is evaporating, sounds very populist and hawkish. He will make China stop cheating on trade and bring high-paying arms-manufacturing jobs back to America.

We ought to be very very scared of China’s military buildup. They are acquiring missiles that could take out American aircraft carriers.

“We are going to leave Iraq in victory.”

Hunter is the first to mention Iran. He is the hawk of the bunch by far. “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear device. Period.” Everyone’s rattled this saber on tv, but for some reason not here.

People hit their feet for Israel: “They should not give back an inch of their land.” Loud flagwaving, whooping, clapping.

On Mexicans: “there are some folks who come across the border to get jobs…but there are a lot that come here to hurt Americans.”

854 miles of border fence in 6 months. Bank on it.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that God still loves this nation.” Bold.

Slow rising ovation. Music is hard to distinguish.

Ron Paul observations and quotes :

He’s only the second speaker to mention the constitution, and the only one to do it more than a passing manner. If only he didn’t have such an exotic interpretation of it.

This dude hates taxes. You know it when you see him on TV, but you feel it in person.

The crowd still responds to calls for overturn of Roe.

He says that rather than waiting for a judicial ruling, Congress can remove the issue of abortion (and others) from the jurisdiction of the federal courts. And you thought Cheney was radical.

UN, WTO, IMF, NAFTA — we shouldn’t be party to any of them.

“I don’t like border guards being sent to Iraq” got very tepid applause that sounded like confusion. People are getting dizzy.

No more birthright citizenship, free education, health care, food stamps for “illegal aliens’” children. Removing these “incentives” and “subsidies” will end illegal immigration. This gets solid applause. I am queasy and embarrassed.

“It’s not that I’m against war per se, I’m against unnecessary, undeclared war.” More confused applause.

The Soviets defeated themselves because they had a poor economic system — Reagan didn’t do it!

Only gold and silver should be basis of currency. Money should not be created “out of thin air.” Hunger be damned.

“I don’t even think we should have a Department of Education. Period.” Loud applause.

One thing I’ll say is that he is no way craven.

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