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Prevailing word of election year is ‘change’

By By Steve Flowers
Mike Huckabee’s victory in Alabama was no surprise. If the primary had been held two months earlier he would have won by a larger margin. Polling had him leading by 12 points as late as Jan. 1. Ever since the evangelical vote crystallized around the Baptist minister in Iowa, the word spread throughout the nation that this is our guy. In a crowded field, where the GOP vote is splintered among several candidates, the evangelical bloc vote becomes insurmountable. Huckabee did well here in the Bible belt, but did not fare as well in the Northeast and the West.
Huckabee is an affable candidate with a populist platform and message which should propel him past just a religious market. However, he has not been able to transcend the perception that he is just a religious right candidate. At age 52 he is young enough to be very interested in the vice-presidential slot. Huckabee seemed to warm to the race and really enjoys the presidential chase. He has done extremely well considering he has had very little financial support and has lagged badly behind his GOP rivals in fundraising.
I wish one of the Huckabee handlers would pull him aside and make him shave more than once a day. Some men have a problem with a heavy beard. It is known as a 5 o’clock shadow. Politicians are constantly photographed and caught by the TV camera and this 5 o’clock shadow makes someone appear sinister.
Richard Nixon suffered from a 5 o’clock shadow. In fact, it is believed by many political gurus and historians to have cost him the 1960 Presidential Election. The legendary 1960 battle, between Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon, was one of the closest races in American history. It is said that the presidential debates of that year were the deciding factor. Television was a new medium but not all people in the country had television. The folks who listened to the debates via radio when polled afterwards overwhelmingly said that Nixon had easily won the debates. Those who viewed the debates on television said Kennedy won. Kennedy was much more photogenic than the rigid and serious Nixon. Plus, if you look at the clips today you see Nixon with an obvious 5 o’clock shadow who you want to pull aside and say, “Fellow you really need a shave.”
Kennedy barely won the election. In fact, most pundits believe he really did not win the election. The race was so close that it boiled down to the pivotal swing state of Illinois. The early results indicated that the rural southern part of the state had voted more heavily than the Democratic enclaves of Chicago. However, the country underestimated the power and corruption of the Democratic machine of Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago.
Daley was the last omnipotent big city political boss. The Chicago mayor held out his vote count to determine how many votes they needed to win. Daley knew there was a lot at stake considering the entire presidential election hinged on the outcome of the Chicago precincts. Therefore, as legend has it Daley put a call in to Kennedy’s father, Joe Kennedy, who was the money behind the campaign. Daley told him what it would cost to deliver enough votes to put his son over the top. Reportedly the old man said I will pay for a win, but not for a landslide. After a days wait the Chicago votes came in and Kennedy won Illinois and thus the White House.
The prevailing word or theme pervasively expressed throughout this election year is “change.” This does not bode well for the Republican Party because change means they want someone besides George W. Bush. The Iraq War debacle and the plunging economy point towards a Democratic victory in November. This is borne out further by the fact that the number of people voting in this year’s Democratic primaries has been double what the Republicans have had when usually it is even. Furthermore, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have each raised more money than all of the GOP candidates combined.
This portends for a win for the Democratic presidential candidate. However, do not count on Alabama going Democratic. We will probably go Republican like we always do no matter who the GOP nominee is in November. In political nomenclature we are a really red state.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.