Same Party, Different Style
By: Wall Street Journal
Romney, Huckabee Present a Stark Choice For Iowa Republicans
By LAURA MECKLER and ELIZABETH HOLMES
In Iowa, the Republican presidential race has come down to two former governors who offer caucus goers a stark choice. It’s the pulpit vs. the boardroom, poverty vs. privilege, passion vs. preparedness.
Mike Huckabee loves homespun tales and self-deprecating jokes. Mitt Romney basks in PowerPoint slides and statistics. Mr. Huckabee, a firefighter’s son, is a Southerner born and bred. Mr. Romney, son of a CEO-turned-governor, roamed from Michigan to Massachusetts to Utah.
They embody two wings of the Republican Party — social conservatives and economic conservatives — that sometimes sit uneasily.
While John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson are competitive in national polls, all three are focusing on states after Iowa. The kickoff Jan. 3 caucus here is largely between Messrs. Romney and Huckabee.
Mr. Huckabee displays his Southern Baptist religion proudly, dropping Biblical references and telling reporters he wouldn’t hesitate to put the Ten Commandments up in the Oval Office. Mr. Romney is uncomfortable discussing his Mormon faith. He gave a speech devoted to “Faith in America” only after his campaign was put on defense in Iowa by Mr. Huckabee’s rise. In the speech, Mr. Romney mentioned Mormonism by name just once.
The differences are a matter of style, too.
Last week in Waterloo, Iowa, Mr. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, talked about the challenge of overhauling the tax system this way: “In the South, we say if you can’t fix it with duct tape and WD-40 it can’t be fixed.”
A week earlier, Mr. Romney showed a PowerPoint presentation charting the budget deficit. “See how big it gets?” he said, pointing to a line tracking entitlement spending. “This line is the historical average of how much money the federal government takes away from taxpayers.”
“The warm fuzzies are surrounding Huckabee, and Romney gives the impression of competence,” said Ted Sporer, chairman of the Polk County, Iowa, Republican Party. “Both are very effective.”
The two men have some things in common. Both are former governors in states with Democratic legislatures, both were champions of expanding health care in their states, both are running as social conservatives, and neither has much foreign-policy experience. But the differences go deeper.
Mr. Huckabee, a former preacher who graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., uses his life story in reaching out to Americans who feel left behind. He says his last name never opened doors for him.
“I’m a generation away from dirt floors and outdoor toilets,” Mr. Huckabee says. “I represent a lot of folks like you who understand that the American dream is about knowing that you can start at the bottom but you don’t have to stay there.”
Mr. Romney rarely talks about his roots or wealth. His father was chairman of American Motors and then governor of Michigan. The son went on to earn two advanced degrees from Harvard, make millions as a venture capitalist and become governor of Massachusetts.
Instead, Mr. Romney focuses on his own family: a picture-perfect wife and five sons who often campaign for him. He regularly touts them as “a family that would make America proud” — a tall order even his sons have asked him to soften.
If Mr. Huckabee is passion, Mr. Romney is polish. His campaign events attempt to telegraph that he is a man who could be president, the rooms awash in a sea of red, white and blue. The candidate wears some shade of navy blue every day, a complement to his tanned skin. He is tall and thin, his salt-and-pepper hair gelled perfectly into place. After greeting him in Davenport, Iowa, last week, a woman turned and mused to her friend, “He’s not bad to look at.”
Mr. Huckabee — best known, looks-wise, for losing 110 pounds — has a bald spot and doesn’t appear to favor any hair products.
To detractors, Mr. Romney can appear scripted. Mary Alice Blake Gilson, a retired library director, said when she saw Mr. Romney speak, he never looked directly at the questioners. “It seems like he spoke in sound bites.”
Off-the-cuff humor and light-hearted moments are a regular part of Mr. Huckabee’s routine. “My wife is a lifelong Democrat,” began a questioner at one of his events. “We’ll pray for her,” Mr. Huckabee replied to laughter. Mr. Romney rarely attempts humor and when he does, it often falls flat.
Mr. Huckabee at times can be caught unprepared on big issues. When asked about a National Intelligence Estimate saying Iran might have given up its nuclear-weapons ambitions, Mr. Huckabee hadn’t heard about it. His staff took the blame for not briefing him. Mr. Romney receives extensive briefings every morning.
At the Ames Straw Poll in August, Mr. Romney won handily by busing voters in and paying for their tickets. Each bus had a captain in charge of filling seats. Mr. Huckabee, who finished second in Ames, spent less than $100,000 to Mr. Romney’s $2 million-plus.
Most Romney events open and end with music. A night after an ice storm shut down most of Iowa, Mr. Romney’s “Holiday Extravaganza” at the Linn-Mar High School cafeteria in Marion drew more than 500 people. Caterers served from behind an elaborate buffet table with a basket of cookies garnished with American flags. Every seat had a red supporter card, paired with a golf pencil, so attendees could state their commitment to Mr. Romney.
At Huckabee events, there is no music, unless a high-school rock band is available, in which case the candidate can sit in and play bass guitar. Volunteers set up the rooms, and attendees have to go to a table to get a supporter card. In Manchester, Iowa, last week, the heat at the community center was off until just before the event, and the room was still cold as the candidate began speaking.
As of the end of September, Mr. Romney had raised $43.7 million, plus $17 million he pitched in from his own fortune, and had $9 million on hand. Mr. Huckabee had raised just over $2 million with $650,000 left in the bank. Even as Mr. Huckabee’s fund raising has picked up, he is still being outspent 2-to-1 in television ads in Iowa, according to independent estimates. Mr. Romney is spending $83,000 a day; Mr. Huckabee, $39,000.
Mr. Romney never mentions the mismatch on the stump. Mr. Huckabee does so at every stop. “My opponent has outspent me 20 to 1. I want you to stop and think about that,” he said last week in Marshalltown.
Rachel Serianz, 58 years old, of Davenport, heard Mr. Huckabee speak and says he “is more in touch with people from the middle class and lower class.” She added, “I like Romney, though, because of his powerful organizational abilities…They both appeal.”
Write to Laura Meckler at firstname.lastname@example.org and Elizabeth Holmes at email@example.com
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