James Forsyth

<strong>How Huckabee is tailoring his message to New Hampshire</strong>

<strong>How Huckabee is tailoring his message to New Hampshire</strong>
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After Hillary’s rally this morning, we drove out to Mike Huckabee’s chowder-fest in the small town of Wyndham. The whole event was a testament to what a versatile politician Huckabee is. He won in Iowa by being, as his adverts controversially called him, a “Christian leader” but here in New Hampshire, where the evangelical population is only three percent, he has dialled the God factor right down. Instead, he is accentuating his economic populism and his humble origins. The room resounded with applause when he told the crowd, “you’re the ones who make the decisions, not the Wall Street types.” 

The Huckabee campaign signed in 600 people but were claiming that the actual attendance was closer to 1,000. Encouragingly for them, the vast majority of the audience seemed to be undecided voters: the reception he got when he left was far warmer than when he entered.

Huckabee is helped by the fact that he is a formidable retail politician, the best I’ve ever seen. He is blessed with a ready wit which helps him bring the audience with him--as well as deal with hecklers--and a fluent speaking style that’s far superior to that of any of his Republican competitors. He’s also the Republican who is most comfortable and emphatic when talking about change, declaring this morning that America “needs a new direction.”

On the way here from Iowa, I thought that if Huckabee could finish third—pushing Giuliani out of the medal positions—it would shake up  the race and set Huckabee up for possible wins in South Carolina and Florida. A slew of polls now put Huckabee in third place and after today, I’m wondering if he can he surge into second place. This is still unlikely but with the pounding that Mitt Romney is taking and Huckabee’s natural political skills it is not impossible. If this did happen, it would turn the race on its head.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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