Who are the volunteers behind Mike Huckabee’s campaign?
On a drizzly Thursday, volunteers of the Mike Huckabee campaign rushed out into the rain and chanted “I like Mike” to welcome the former governor of Arkansas into his headquarters in Urbandale. This was the start of an event focused on gearing up volunteers for the caucus on Feb. 1.
Polling at three percent in Iowa as of Dec. 21 according to the RealClearPolitics average, my colleagues and I went out in the rain to see just who was volunteering for someone who was polling at much lower numbers. From the time that Huckabee arrived, it was clear that these volunteers — although small in number — are very dedicated to his campaign.
We arrived at 5:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the event’s start time, and walked into Huckabee’s headquarters. Campaign staff rushed around as we were asked why we were there. After walking past the reception desk, we were greeted to a room filled with a spread full of sandwiches, cookies, brownies, water, soda and various other snacks.
On the other side of that wall was a line of five phones, where a man sat making a call on behalf of Huckabee.
Abby Lindsey, Huckabee’s volunteer coordinator for Iowa, said these five phones were her main focus for the volunteers at this time.
“Phone banking is one of the biggest things that we are really focusing on right now,” Lindsey said. “Phone banking enables us to reach out to a lot of voters and people all over Iowa that haven’t been to events yet or are homebound and aren’t able to get to events. They may just not know that much about Governor Huckabee and may be are just not following politics in general, so we are able to update them prior to the caucus.”
This effort, one could argue, shows the attempt to get the older generation to back Huckabee, which made up a majority of this volunteer rally. The small headquarters was packed with about 75 people, which left standing room only because the 10 chairs put out filled up quickly.
The rally, scheduled to start at 6 p.m., really became a rally around 7 p.m. when the former governor’s bus arrived after completing his visit to his 99th Iowa county early that day. This left volunteers standing for some time.
One such volunteer, Kathleen Andrews, has volunteered since Huckabee’s 2008 campaign (when he won the caucus), and finds that Huckabee aligns with her values.
“What Mike Huckabee says is what he feels in his heart, so it’s not changing any,” Andrews said. “All of those strong ideals, principles that I stand for, come right out of his mouth.”
Andrews even asked Huckabee to sign her guitar when he got off the bus.
The governor shook hands, made a media appearance and then stood behind a backdrop with “Huckabee 2016” stretched across the top.
He then began a speech meant to inspire volunteers.
“I still hold the record for having the most votes of any candidate in the history of the Iowa Caucuses,” Huckabee said. “And I’m going to tell you, we didn’t get there last time by just going and doing some big fundraisers and buying TV and radio time and popping in the state occasionally. We did it by doing what we’re doing this time, getting out there, campaigning in every town and every county and every village and making sure that we call folks and got them to the caucuses.”
Later in his speech, Huckabee brought up the fact that many of his supporters have carried over from his 2008 campaign.
“I want to say how much I appreciate you, because I look around this room and I see many of you that I first met 8 years ago,” Huckabee said “I know how hard you worked and I remember the night that I stood on that stage, I looked out there to a sea of faces and I was able to receive from the people of Iowa a victory that nobody saw coming.”
It came as no surprise that his 10 minute speech ended with a call to action, considering it was a volunteer rally.
“We’re committed to winning. We can only win with your help and your enthusiasm,” Huckabee said. “So are you willing and are you ready to give the next 24 days to a victory on February first? Can I count on you on that?”
This left the enthusiastic crowded clapping and cheering “Yes!” as Huckabee walked around to shake hands.
Supporters showed Huckabee books they made him, asked him to sign guitars and told him stories about how they have supported him through it all. Stories like these show the dedication that the Huckabee campaign has to winning the caucus.
Although the campaign may have dedicated volunteers, the small number that are phone banking and door knocking may not be enough to prove Huckabee a winner yet again. But his supporters are hopeful.
“He won in ’08 here and he has had big support on the ground troops, so to be speak,” said Janis Terry, a supporter and wife of senior staff to Huckabee. “(We are) getting local support from people that have lived here. You just never know what is going to happen at this point.”
Alicia Anderson, Abbi Nelson, Kyle Stratton and Tim Webber also contributed to this post.