Iowa Caucus Calculus in the Post-Huckabee Era

OTTUMWA, IA -- Randy Davis has got a serious case of the Hucka-blues.

"I'm disappointed...discouraged," says Davis.

You see, Davis' favorite presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, opted out of the 2012 White House race.

Almost from the very start in the '08 campaign, Davis really liked Mike, and Huckabee won the Iowa Caucuses that year.

Excited about the prospect of another Hucka-bid, the governor's former Wapello county chair began the grassroots work to get a campaign started where none existed a few months ago.

"I just took it upon myself to do what I could to get a ground operation started," explains Davis.

"So, I contacted some people, and over the course of time we contacted some of the former (2008) county (campaign) chairmen and precinct captains, probably between 500 and 600 people."

It was a small army of Hucka-backers, ready to march.

Then came Saturday's announcement. Huck was out.

Now what?

"As far as who Huckebee supporters are now going to support," ponders Davis, "I just really don't have a good answer for that."

This is the new wrinkle in the on-going guessing game in Iowa of caucus calculus; who adds supporters with Huckabee subtracted?

Businessman Herman Cain, who appeared at a Linn County fundraiser for the local GOP committee, thinks he'll get a share of Huckabee's supporters.

"When the evangelicals and the (conservative) Christians have a look at my background and they see my religious affiliation, it'll be a natural," says Cain.

Certainly, evangelical Christians made up a huge block of Huckabee's Iowa base. And they are a political force that cannot be ignored.

Exit polling from Iowa's 2010 general election suggests better than one-third of all voters identified themselves as either evangelical or born-again Christians. More impressive is that evangelicals/born-again Christians made up over half of the Republican votes cast.

Ryan Rhodes has a bold prediction for the future favorite candidate of now-abandoned Huckabee supporters. Rhodes, chairman of the Iowa Tea Party, believes they will coalesce around a single candidate, and that's Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Rhodes predicts, "If Michele Bachmann's campaign puts it together, I think she's going to be a clear front-runner in Iowa."

Bachmann is reportedly very near to an announcement on her decision whether or not to get into the presidential race. Her status as a Tea Party favorite would help in Iowa. Rhodes says evangelicals make up the largest contingent of the state's Tea Partiers.

But what if Huckabee backers go their different ways, picked-up by several different candidates? Then what?

Hucka-pal Bob Vander Plaats says maybe the guy Huckabee bested in '08 will turn out to be the candidate whose fortunes improve the most.

"You might see Gov. Mitt Romney come out of Iowa as a caucus-winner, because all he has to do is hold onto the support that he had (in 2008)," suggests Vander Plaats.

So, back in Ottumwa, what does Randy Davis think about all this talk about the fate of Huckabee backers?

"It's a little too soon for that," he says.

Davis wants to take some time to digest Huckabee's departure, and he has been busy consoling fellow Hucka-fans.

Would a Huckabee endorsement of another candidate help him select a new presidential favorite? Davis says he would be interested... to a point.

"I don't know that I'd just automatically would say, ‘Well, he says this person so that's what I'm gonna do.' I mean it's not like I'm a robot or something."


Davis is a real, live, Iowa Republican activist who's stinging from losing a presidential candidate he had his heart set on.