DES MOINES, Iowa — With snow blanketing Iowa’s capitol city outside, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee—a 2016 GOP presidential candidate and the winner of the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses—took the stage with country music star Josh Turner here in Wooly’s downtown to play bass guitar.
Under high ceilings with the rafters showing, the packed downtown honky-tonk—dimly lit with hightop tables surrounding a hardwood dance floor, long bar off to the left and higher-top booths lining the right wall — buzzed with Huckabee supporters as they waited for their candidate and Turner to take the stage. Huckabee volunteers passed out campaign stickers and sold bright red #ImWithHuck tee-shirts.
“I want to say thanks to all of you for coming out—for us, this is horrible weather,” Huckabee told the 150 or so supporters gathered inside Wooly’s a few blocks from the Iowa State Capitol building while inches of snow piled up outside.
I know you’re from Iowa, you’re saying ‘This is great. This is normal.’ Look, a lot of us on this campaign and the campaign staff, we’re all from the South. I’ll tell you, our blood is not as thick as yours is and we really admire you guys—we were in Cedar Rapids earlier today and coming to Des Moines tonight it was just like a blinding snowstorm the whole time and I’m just always amazed. This would have just shut everything down in Arkansas—and it wouldn’t take this much. We’re always amazed when we hear on the news about people who have heart attacks while they’re shoveling snow, and we think why would anyone shovel snow? That’s the problem with yankees: They’re always out there shoveling snow. We’re thinking this is dumb because snow will melt except for you it doesn’t melt for weeks or months, for us it melts tomorrow. It’s really, I mean, everything closes. The government closes, school closes. Washington, D.C., closed last week for several days.
The crowd cheered.
About 150 people came out to Wooly’s for the Huckabee event—more than double that had RSVP’d before the snow started pelting Iowa roads—for the free concert. When Turner took the stage—Huckabee joined him mid-set—he didn’t say much besides singing.
“I just wanted to say it’s an honor to be here despite the weather,” Turner told the crowd. “We’re out here at Wooly’s, we’re indoors and the heat’s working so everything’s fine.”
Turner, a conservative Christian, did say why he’s supporting Huckabee for president. “He’s about as genuine as the day is long,” Turner said. “He cares about each and every one of you. He cares about our nation.”
While on stage, Turner played six songs for the Huckabee team. He kicked it off with”Why Don’t We Just Dance?,” then shifted to “Everything Is Fine” before turning to “Would You Go With Me?” and then “Your Man.” After that Huckabee joined him on stage to play bass for “All Over Me” and “Long Black Train.”
Huckabee was also joined by his wife, former Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee.
“I want to thank you all for coming—I know the weather was a little less than sunshiny today,” Janet Huckabee said on stage before comedian Jimmy Labriola—who’s starred on shows like Home Improvement and in movies like The Santa Clause—performed to open up the night.
When Gov. Huckabee was on stage, the 2008 caucus winner said that he expects to do a lot better than polling currently shows and the media predicts he’ll do in the caucuses next Monday.
“Folks, we are one week away, one week from tonight the Iowa caucuses—tonight is sort of a practice for the caucuses,” Huckabee said.
Not that Josh Turner will be at the caucuses singing at all 800 locations and not that Jim Labriola will be there. But I hope you’ll be there. One of the things, I don’t know if it ticks you off, but the media from the east coast has already figured out who you’re going to vote for. They’ve already told you who you’re going to vote for. Why is it that every four years they’re wrong? They have been since Jimmy Carter won the Iowa caucuses all the way back in the 70s—nobody saw that coming. Time after time after time, the people of Iowa have made up their own minds. Once again, we are believing that something very surprising will happen a week from tonight. The media will once again have it wrong and we are going to have the opportunity to shock the nation and launch from Iowa on to the White House.
The crowd cheered again.
Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill, who endorsed Huckabee for president and joined his team at Wooly’s on Monday night, told Breitbart News backstage that he’s backing Huckabee because he’s a strong Christian conservative.
“Cindy and I—my wife—we’ve been very, very fortunate to meet all of the candidates that are running because as part of the SEC primary we’ve been able to host all of the candidates that come down to Alabama,” Merrill told Breitbart News.
Every time that we met one and we started at the Red State Gathering in Atlanta, and we’ve had personal interaction time with each one of them, we always found ourselves comparing each one of them to Mike Huckabee. How do we like this guy as compared to Gov. Huckabee? We couldn’t find anybody that we had more confidence in, had more faith in or believed in stronger than we did in Gov. Huckabee. So we just made a commitment that we were going to offer our support to other candidates as they come to Alabama because of my role but my personal endorsement and personal support has been with Gov. Huckabee. We’ve made phone calls, visits, we’ve come to Iowa to campaign with him for this last week. We’re just honored to be with him—because what I want in my president is I want a committed conservative Christian who believes that Jesus Christ is the living son of the living God who has Christ as a center point for his life and I want that person to be someone who has proven to me to be a conservative fiscal manager, a conservative moral leader, a conservative leader in our government who is a strong manager and Gov. Huckabee has proven that as a very conservative governor of a Democrat state.
Merrill added that he’s confident Huckabee will do a lot better than the media predictions have him doing.
“So the question comes, why are you helping somebody who can’t win?” Merrill said.
That’s what everybody says—why are you for Mike Huckabee?—and this is what I say ‘if everybody who thinks that Mike Huckabee would be a good president supports Mike Huckabee, he’ll be the next president.’ So for me, not doing it because I didn’t believe he could make it would mean that I didn’t believe enough in the future of our government and what I expect the government to be. So I have to be one of those people that steps up and says I support this guy because this guy is the kind of guy we need.
Merrill, who’s been in Iowa with Huckabee for just two days so far, told Breitbart News too that “there’s no doubt about it to me” that the energy for Huckabee ahead of the 2016 caucuses is stronger than what’s showing up in the mainstream media. He continued,
So what has to happen—the caucus vote is just like it is on any election—who gets their people out?” Merrill said. “So if we can get our team out to the caucuses on Monday, our team supports our guy, then our guy can finish in the top three. If our guy finishes in the top three, all bets are off. If he makes it to South Carolina, he’ll win South Carolina. And if he wins South Carolina, he’ll win the SEC primary. And if he wins the SEC primary, then he’s on his way to the nomination.
And if that scenario plays out for Huckabee, Merrill notes, “he’s the only one that’s running as a Republican that defeated the Clintons not just once but several times.”
As such, that’s why when Huckabee was on stage, he pushed for his supporters to show up at the caucuses for him since most of the politicians in Washington, D.C., don’t care about American workers like them.
I know there are lots of choices in this election, I get that there are 327 Republicans running now—I would simply say to you in all seriousness, one of the things that I think makes this year’s voter so angry is that it seems to not matter whether Democrats or Republicans are occupying Washington,” Huckabee said. “It’s the same stuff. Which is always for their best interest and never for yours. Many of you work all day standing on your feet all day working on a concrete floor. You lift heavy things. You sweat to do what you do. Somehow it just seems like to the folks that make the decisions that they end up making decisions that ship your jobs to Mexico or to China or to Indonesia. [They have] no idea how hard you’re working or what little you have to show for it thanks to policies that have turned into six of the richest counties in America being right around Washington, D.C.