Blogging the Right Thing: Elections by Ebay

Chapter 6 of Do the Right Thing is called "Elections by Ebay" and it’s kind of reversal of Chapters 2-5 which focused on policy with a little bit of campaign story sprinkled in. This tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Huckabee campaign.

Some of the interesting factoids in here include the fact that when Huckabee started his campaign website, he was receiving sixty online contributions per month. The website was programmed to buzz the blackberry of Chip Saltsman and each donation led to a ten second mini-celebration.

The book was put to bed in June when it wasn’t known who would prevail in the Presidential election, so Huckabee couldn’t have known that the race for the RNC Chairman would be an open seat with Saltsman running. However, this chapter makes a powerful case for Saltsman as Chairman of the RNC.

Saltsman’s work as described by Huckabee is remarkable as he managed to, with next to no resources, keep a national campaign that began behind in the game,  in it until the very end of the primary process.

Huckabee, Saltsman, and an amazing team showed what determined folks could accomplish against the odds and with the right mix of talent.

One very surprising detail that came out is that Huckabee almost didn’t attend the Iowa Strawpoll. Huckabee’s second place finish was a resounding wake-up call to the national media. Yet, Huckabee found himself outgunned by not only Mitt Romney, but also Sam Brownback, as well as Tommty Thompson who made the Iowa Strawpoll a make or break contest. In the end, Saltsman won the day with the argument that the campaign needed oxygen.

A later move by Huckabee that didn’t pay off quite as well was Huckabee’s decision to pull money set aside for Florida and spend it in South Carolina. Huckabee came up just short and then found cash short in Florida.

Huckabee argued that the media coverage of money as well as it’s effect on debate coverage and debate questions was detrimental, as well as unfair. He pointed to the failures of both Giuliani and Romney despite their big spending. Huckabee that frontrunners "didn’t just take in money; they burned right through it with their private jets, five-store hotels, and lavish meals. We ate a lot of burritos and cheap burgers on the bus….Millions of the anointed front-runners’ money went to pricey consultants who constantly clashed with each other about startegy and message, a battle of expensive egos that consumed a lot of contributions." Huckabee argued that his downside was his upside. "I didn’t have enough senior staff for them to divide into factions and distract me with their quarrels."

Huckabee argues that the FEC reports fail to measure the quality of the campaigns. Huckabee’s clear that media coverage of money is not responsible for the result of the campaign, but that they better knew how to manage their message in the media after the campaign than before they began it. ‘

Huckabee tentatively suggests that the best solution to our campaign finance system is to "prohibit nothing and disclose everything."

Huckabee writes that despite the fact the 2008 campaign was a season of record spending that he hoped his campaign "would be a beacon to those who are reluctant to run because they don’t have a lot of money to start with. I hope our campaign inspires those who want to run for office to realize that you can do it with less money than the experts–who are trying to get you to hire them for exorbitant fees–will tell you you can.’

Does Huckabee go after Romney in this chapter? Yeah, but only a little bit more than he did Rudy Giuliani, and Huckabee’s statements are about Romney’s fundraising machine (and that Mitt Romney’s staging from the Iowa strawpoll would for an American Idol telecast.)  If you want to take that as a personal attack, go ahead.

Fundamentally, the Huckabee Iowa Caucus story is a David and Goliath battle and if you don’t know that Goliath is 9-feet tall, the story doesn’t make sense. If you don’t know Mitt Romney spent $5 million to win the Iowa Strawpoll, that Huckabee spent about $100,000 to finish second doesn’t seem all that remarkable.

The day by day blogging will pause here for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Chapter 7 is a humdinger and I don’t want it missed to declining Thanksgiving audiences.