2016 Caucus

August 21st, 2015

Huckabee Grinds while Cruz tries to Shine


Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Ever since I was a kid, I loved Johnny Cash’s version of “I’ve been everywhere.”

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere
I’ve been to…

I’m sure presidential candidates can relate to such a song. Running for president is no easy task. You are either traveling to early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, or you are traveling to New York, Texas, and California in search for campaign contributions.

On Thursday afternoon, a Mike Huckabee press release came into my inbox announcing that he would be campaigning in Waterloo, Elkader, West Union, Decorah, Waukon, Spencer, Sheldon, Sibley, and Okoboji next week. It got me thinking about that Johnny Cash song.

With Texas Senator Ted Cruz arriving in the state today to campaign at the Iowa State Fair and then at his Religious Liberty Rally later tonight in Des Moines, I’ve spent plenty of time talking to reporters about how the Cruz campaign is doing in Iowa.

In a nutshell here is what I tell those people who ask about Ted Cruz in Iowa.

  • Cruz is a natural fit for the Iowa Caucuses.
  • At the end of the day, it is my belief that evangelical voters and social conservatives really only have two viable choices – Cruz and Huckabee.
  • I think it’s been a mistake for Cruz not to campaign more aggressively in Iowa, but it’s not too late.
  • While Cruz is campaigning across a bunch of southern states that vote long after Iowa and South Carolina, Mike Huckabee has quietly been traveling all over the state. It’s not glitzy, but he’s building an impressive campaign organization.
  • With candidates like Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry floundering, Huckabee is smart to be spending his time trolling for support in Iowa.

If Johnny Cash was singing about Mike Huckabee’s travels in Iowa this year, it would go something like this.

Huck’s been everywhere, man
Huck’s been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
Huck’s breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, Huck’s had his share, man
Huck’s been everywhere

Huck’s been to Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Rapids, Windsor Heights, Altoona, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Le Mars, Orange City, Mt. Pleasant, Waukee, Oskaloosa, Urbandale, Cedar Falls, Marshalltown, Story City, Johnston, Clear Lake, Davenport, Boone, Indianola, Clarinda, Red Oak, Creston, Osceola, Decatur City, Corydon, Chariton, Pella, Cherokee, Fort Dodge, Manchester, Maquoketa, DeWitt, Bettendorf, Winterset, Waterloo, Elkader, West Union, Decorah, Waukon, Spencer, Sheldon, Sibley, and Okoboji.

Now if Johnny Cash were singing about Ted Cruz the song would be a little shorter because the list of Iowa communities visited by Cruz is 26 towns shorter than Huckabee’s.

Ted’s been everywhere, man
Ted’s been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
Ted’s breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, Huck’s had his share, man
Ted’s been everywhere

Ted’s been to Des Moines, West Des Moines, Altoona, Sioux City, Bankston, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Waukee, Red Oak, Denison, Johnston, Sheldon, Orange City, Pierson, Pella, Dyersville, Brooklyn, and Ames.

And since it’s Friday and we are all having fun here, let’s add Marco Rubio.

Marco’s been everywhere, man
Marco’s been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
Marco’s breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, Marco’s had his share, man
Marco’s been everywhere

Marco’s been to West Des Moines, Ankeny, Waukee, Ames, Boone, Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Urbandale, Cedar Rapids. Ottumwa, Wilton, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Fort Dodge, Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, Des Moines, Van Meter, and West Des Moines.

As you can tell, I put in the duplicate stops in communities for Rubio while I excluded them for Huckabee and Cruz. The reason is that, while Rubio has done one swing outside of central Iowa, his campaign activity in Iowa has made some wonder if he’s running for Polk County Supervisor instead of President of the United States.

The point that this little exercise highlights is that Huckabee is really working the land all across Iowa. And while Cruz has the ability to do well in Iowa, he is betting on a couple high-profile events and perhaps a late charge into Iowa, while Huckabee is taking a more workmanlike approach.

Last week, the Huckabee campaign announced that they have signed up 71 county chairs already. The reason that number is important is because it’s vital for the presidential campaign to organize down to the precinct level. The caucuses are all about the grass roots, not grass tops, and not AstroTurf.

Huckabee may currently be a middle of the pack candidate, but his focus on Iowa will likely pay huge dividends. Cruz has spent a lot of time and money campaigning in the south preparing for what is called the SEC primary. His campaigning there has been well received, but if he doesn’t do well in Iowa next February, or to put it more bluntly, if he doesn’t finish ahead of Huckabee in Iowa, none of his investment into those states will really matter.

In 2012, Rick Perry invested heavily into South Carolina, which was supposed to be his firewall. He didn’t make it out of Iowa. Presidential politics isn’t that difficult. Campaigns need to score an early victory in either Iowa or New Hampshire, and if you can win both you are likely to be the nominee.

I’m constantly surprised at all of the talking heads, political pundits, and high paid campaign consultants that argue that there is some other magical unexplored route to the Republican nomination that doesn’t include Iowa or New Hampshire. The first presidential debate is in the books, and we saw how 90 minutes of prime time TV shook up the Republican race. You are a fool if you underestimate the power of the results from Iowa and New Hampshire.

Whoever wins or surprises in the first two early states will gain an enormous amount of momentum as well as a massive amount of news coverage. Essentially there is the campaign before Iowa and New Hampshire, and then there is the campaign that follows. It may be hard to fathom, but after New Hampshire, the field of 17 candidates will be narrowed down to three or four viable candidates. If you win Iowa, you are guaranteed a spot in the finals. The same goes for New Hampshire.

Huckabee seems to be one of the few who really understands how this all works. That should not really be a surprise, since he’s seen first hand how this all works. Cruz on the other hand, may learn the same tough lesson that Rick Perry learned in 2012.


About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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