PELLA, Iowa -- With the roads slick and covered in snow this Friday, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson held competing events here this morning, a few blocks from one another along Main St. I caught up with Huckabee at Pizza Ranch, where he spoke to a packed room and people in the back stood on chairs to try and get a glimpse of the Iowa frontrunner over the standing crowd and cameras.
Huckabee's speech was more about appealing to Iowans as if he were one of them than it was about advocating specific policies. Other than a throwaway line about instability in Pakistan, there was scant mention of foreign policy, while the domestic policy discussion involved a brief mention of the fair tax and the need to secure the borders.
Instead, much of the speech tried to connect the type of values one would find in a small town in Arkansas with Pella--a neighborhood where Huckabee said "Ozzie and Harriet could have lived" and "going to church is not an oddity." Noting the children in the audience, he said that when he was governor, everything he did had in mind a 7 year old living in Dermott, Arkansas--an impoverished part of the state. That's what motivated him to expand access to health care for children as well as improve roads and schools. He referred back to the 7 year old throughout the speech.
Huckabee also took aim at his top rival in Iowa, though he did not mention Mitt Romney by name. Huckabee said he is pro-life as a matter of personal conviction, and he did not become that way because he was running for president. He noted that he has been outspent 20 to 1 and that his rival was spending "10 gizallion dollars" on negative ads, but the election, he said, "should not be about who raises money, but who raises hope." Responding to some of the charges in the ads, he said that he cut taxes 94 times, that meth penalties were 4 times harsher in his state than Massachusetts, and that he allowed 16 people to be executed (thus he is not soft on crime).
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