by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee's second-place straw poll finish earns him a front-page NY Times slot, even though the article acknowledges the diminished importance of an event lacking three major candidates and much of a turnout. The focus is on Huckabee's penchant for quips.
Mr. Huckabee’s use of humor amounts to a style of politicking that many audiences have found engaging, and that stands out in an era of bloggers and journalists recording a candidate’s slightest slip.
Shtick in politics has its risks, as Mr. Huckabee is probably about to find out if he gets the attention he said on Sunday that he deserved. But for now, his humor may go a long way in explaining why he finished ahead of a decidedly more somber Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Both men made similar conservative appeals to similar voters.
“Campaigns shouldn’t always be painful,” Mr. Huckabee said when asked about his approach in an interview here. “Politics shouldn’t be like a root canal.”
I don't think I exaggerate when I say Huckabee's brand of humor is often not much better. He seems to have been avoiding the potty humor of late, though, to his credit.
But the important thing for Huck is the narrative. If the national press decrees he's a funny, likable guy, no amount of contrary evidence from his past will be allowed to disturb the narrative. And once the narrative is established -- whether it's a positive one (George Bush as good guy cowboy) or a negative one (earth-tone wearing, dissembling Al Gore; war coward John Kerry) -- it obscures the more important questions. Like: when Huckabee promises victory with honor in Iraq, fair taxes and good health care, those universally acclaimed objectives lack a great deal in supporting detail. Keep 'em laughing, Mike. It's the best medicine, clearly.