MIKE HUCKABEE, REALITY-TV PRODIGY….Republicans have long worked miracles in uniting improbable coalitions: social conservatives and Club for Growth plutocrats; missionaries and war-mongers; disgruntled blue-collars and impervious bluebloods. At present moment, Mike Huckabee has managed to, if not literally unite, at least draw affection from both bonafide social conservatives and ironic horn-rimmed glasses folks, like yours truly, who enjoy watching him call out the absurdities of the campaign process. (Note: that’s some affection, not a vote; he has many dubious policy positions.)
Usually he does this by playing the straight man as a foil to overbearing reporters. The way he reacts to leading questions doesn’t so much make him seem wise, as make the questioner seem hopelessly illogical. This tact allows Huckabee to stoke a certain vituperative glee without uttering a mean word himself. It’s not the liberal media, but the loopy media. (And even the staunchest press advocates admit that this particular journalistic horserace has its loopy moments, its questionable Tim Russert ambushes.)
For instance, there’s the reporter who wants to know, at the end of an Iowa pheasant hunt, if Huckabee has devilishly named the pheasants he downed “Romney” and “Thompson.”
There’s the debate questioner who persists in being hyper-literal about his own creationism question.
And, of course, there’s the Chuck Norris ad, which isn’t really about Chuck or Huckabee, but about the odd genre of endorsement ads.
I admit it. I’m cheering for Huckabee in these moments. It’s not because I think his answers are right, but because I think he’s correctly fingered the absurdity of the rituals.
The man might make a very scary president, but he’s a genius at reality-TV. YouTube, after all, is really an extended reality show about the campaign. Most of the other candidates aren’t acknowledging that the interview segments are pretty corny, and that the furniture in the living-room sets isn’t their own. But Huckabee plays it with more panache than the Bachlorette. For better or worse; being president really isn’t an episode of “Survivor.”
UPDATE: In case it wasn’t clear, I’m in no way rooting for Huckabee but trying to understand the uncanny (some may say dangerous) charisma that’s fueling his surge.