If you are a headline reader who usually doesn't bother to dig beneath the usual spin of the news media you probably think Mitt Romney emerged this weekend as the favorite son of Evangelicals at the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council Action. Of the 5,775 votes cast (a straw poll that was second only to Iowa for number of participants) Romney received 1,595 to Huckabee's 1,565. If you look solely at the numbers, which is exactly what Romney supporters would like for you to do, you would conclude that Huckabee is out and Romney has the heart of the Evangelical community.
But the final straw poll result doesn't reveal the heart of the people who attended the summit. Among Summit attendees, Huckabee won hands down. The actual margin of victory for Huckabee was five to one or 488 to 99. Both the anticipation of his speech and the response during his speech was off the chart. He received no less than eleven standing ovations with the first one coming at just the mention of his name. He was interrupted by applause over twenty times. The press conference following his speech was packed out with national and local media all who were convinced that based on the response to his speech he would emerge as the Evangelical frontrunner. I was amazed at his candor, his passion, and his command of the issues that face us today. Huckabee has that rare, intangible ability to connect with his audience. I define that ability as the combination of confidence, humility, and charisma. When those three attributes come together they form a person who should be, at least for Evangelicals, a winning candidate.
Concerning the threat of Islamofacism, Huckabee said, "We can fight those countries who have a war over borders and boundaries, who fight with bullets and with bombs and who fight under the banner of flags, but we cannot completely ever fully understand the depth of fanaticism that drives Islamofacism, and that's why we must make sure that every American understand the threat of our freedom is real. It's going to be here. And we cannot have the naïve idea that if we leave them alone, they will leave us along. That will get us killed." Far from being a "neocon" an "Isolationist" or an "imperialist" Huckabee understands the nature of the enemy we face and, unlike most of the rest of both the Republican and Democrat field, he is not afraid to call this war we are engaged in a war against Islamofacism.
Concerning the very important issue of illegal immigration Governor Huckabee said, "I want to make it clear that it is unacceptable in this country that it is more difficult for people like you and me to get on an airplane in our own hometown than it is for an illegal to cross the border of an international boundary, and our government has failed us and refused to make a difference. We need to make it clear that we will say no to amnesty and no to sanctuary cities and no to the idea that there can be some complete ignoring that our laws have been broken…..build a border fence. Secure the border and do it now."
Concerning the culture war over values Huckabee said, "We do not have the right to move the standards of God to meet new cultural norms. We need to move the cultural norms to meet God's standards." He then told the story of a confrontation the great evangelist Billy Sunday had with a woman who attended one of his preaching services. Huckabee said, "The woman approached Sunday and said I didn't like your sermon. You rubbed the cat's fur the wrong way. He looked right back at her and starred deeply and said, then lady, turn the cat around."
Concerning sticking to the principles that originally drew millions of value voters into the political process Huckabee said, "We need to once again realize that there was a time when there were certain things negotiable: which federal agencies should stay or go, which programs ought to get more or less money. But some things were not negotiable: the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage, the purpose of freedom, and the opportunity for us to worship as we please. Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody's politics…not now, not ever."
Later that night, Dr. James Dobson was honored by the Family Research Council for his lifelong contributions to defending and building up the family. After listening to the likes of former Attorney General Ed Meese recall how faithful Dr. Dobson had been in defending moral values in the public arena, Dr. Dobson took the podium and used it as an opportunity to remind us what really matters come election day. He recalled the time in 1998 when he stood in front of 400,000 prolife supporters in Washington and vowed that he would never again compromise by voting for someone who was not decidedly and demonstrably prolife. As long as Governor Mike Huckabee is in race thank God we don't have to compromise. We don't have to hold our nose and vote. We can march into the voting booth, vote Huckabee, and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we have stood by the things that matter most.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.