While it is debatable that God is really responsible for Mike Huckabee’s recent rise in the polls, as he claims, it is clear that something is at work which has propelled the one-time “also ran” into a legitimate contender for the Republican presidential nomination – and that something appears to be a network of disparate but committed right-wing grassroots activists and organizations. As the Dallas Morning News recently explained:
Mike Huckabee’s political rise has been fueled by a vast network of local Christian leaders largely unknown to the general public but powerfully influential in evangelical circles.
That strategy – methodically rolling up the support of these grass-roots networks – has paid big dividends, helping catapult Mr. Huckabee ahead in Iowa and boosting his prospects in the Republican field.
“All these leaders that most of the national media don’t recognize, they’re all coming to Huckabee,” said supporter Kelly Shackelford of Plano-based Liberty Legal Institute.
“You’ve got the home-school network. You’ve got the right-to-life network. You’ve got networks of megachurches,” said John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
“The Huckabee campaign apparently understands something about the evangelical community that people outside don’t – that it’s highly decentralized,” he said.
So far, Huckabee has been rolling up an ever-growing list of B-list right-wing figures while courting even fringier figures such as Steve Hotze and John Hagee, whom Huckabee praised as “one of the great Christian leaders of our nation.” Meanwhile, his supporters were all geared up to travel around Iowa and put on “non-partisan” rallies benefiting him until they ran into problems with the weather and their tour bus.
But Huckabee’s biggest and most active boosters, at least in Iowa, seem to be home-schoolers who are, as the Des Moines Register described them, “Republicans … united by core principles, especially their rejection of public schools in favor of their own religious-based teaching”:
“They stand for the same things, and they trust each other,” said Christine Hurley, a Pleasant Hill Republican active in the state’s home-school network.
“I think that’s what’s happening with the Huckabee thing,” said Hurley, who supports Huckabee. “When you understand he’s a Baptist minister, you don’t have to ask what he stands for.”
Michael Farris’ endorsement of Huckabee in May, meaningless to much of the voting public, sent a strong signal to Crawford and other Christian home-school families in Iowa. Farris is founder and chairman of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association and the national figure for Christian home-school families.
“That was sort of the icing on the cake,” Crawford said of Farris’ endorsement. “It wasn’t the be-all and end-all. But that was the thing that got me to take Governor Huckabee seriously.”
The Washington Post reported on the same phenomenon, as has the Los Angeles Times, and even CBN’s David Brody. And while Mike Farris might not be a household name, he is a longtime right-wing activist (having served as general counsel for Concerned Women for America and as executive director and general counsel of the Washington state chapter of the Moral Majority) and obviously extremely influential within the home-school movement.
In the end, what really excites these home-schoolers about Huckabee is that he is the most “biblically qualified” candidate out there:
“[Home-school families] see it as a civic duty and it’s important to try to elect leaders who hold the same values families do. They get behind a candidate and support them,” said [Justin] LaVan, who supports Huckabee as a “biblically qualified” figure “who doesn’t want to put up barriers or increase control over home-schooling.”