Well, that was … thoroughly uninteresting. And that is fantastic, spectacular news for new Republican front-runner Mike Huckabee, and a giant missed opportunity for Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and all the rest of the would-be Iowa contenders. ~Rick Klein

That may be overstating things a bit, but it was the last debate before the caucuses and the last chance to expose Huckabee to the kind of pressure his rivals need to put on him if they expect him to slip up or lose popular support.  If Klein is right that Huckabee and Paul were the winners coming out of the debate, that can’t be anything but bad news for Thompson, who needs Huckabee to implode and who also needs Ron Paul to go away.  Fourth place or single digit results and Thompson is pretty much finished. 

On the other hand, the sheer lack of organisation and money that Huckabee has, as we are reminded in the Times magazine piece today, has to catch up to him at some point.  Huckabee’s poor fundraising is frankly a little bit surprising.  Granted, he has raised his national profile in just the last few weeks, which hasn’t allowed much time to raise funds, but how is it that he is getting such massive support in Iowa and noticeable support everywhere else in the country and can’t translate that into some real funding right now?  As this article about Huckabee’s daughter (and natonal field coordinator) reminds us, they won’t have a campaign bus until next week. 

The lack of funding is demonstrated very simply by the Huckabee campaign’s own site.  His goal for Dec. 15th is $1.5 1.15 million.  He needs about $300,000 in the next three days to reach this fairly extremely modest goal.

P.S.  A thought occurred to me when I was reading Chafets’ profile and came across the part where Huckabee selected T.G.I. Friday’s for their lunch (a selection Chafets refused).  Someone has made the crack about Huckabee that his name sounds like that of a chain restaurant, and I read the Chafets’ piece after watching Amy Sullivan and Rod Dreher’s bloggingheads last night (in which Rod invokes Applebee’s America).  Then I saw the reference to Huckabee’s preferred chain restaurant.  Somehow that struck me as the perfect symbol for Huckabee’s campaign.  On a more substantive level, the chain restaurant connection reminded me of something else.    This made me wonder whether Huckabee is the ideal candidate of Applebee’s America.  The points from that book that seem to apply to Huckabee’s success thus far are these:

  • People make choices about politics, consumer goods, and religion with their hearts, not their heads.
  • Successful leaders touch people at a gut level by projecting basic American values that seem lacking in modern institutions and missing from day-to-day life experiences.
  • The most important Gut Values today are community and authenticity. People are desperate to connect with one another and be part of a cause greater than themselves. They’re tired of spin and sloganeering from political, business, and religious institutions that constantly fail them.

Of course, the idea that Huckabee is “authentic” while others are not is an idea that Huckabee has tried hard to cultivate.  It seems to me that it isn’t true, but in the same way that Clinton claimed that he felt your pain Huckabee can certainly make people feel as if it is true and make them feel that he understands their predicaments. 

Update: Huckabee is now also running in a close second place in Wisconsin of all places, up seventeen points from three months ago.