Republican caucus: Emphatic support for Huckabee
Floyd County Republicans chose their man rather emphatically Thursday night.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee garnered 37 percent of the Floyd County GOP vote. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was second with 21 percent of the votes.
Results in Floyd County closely mirrored those from around the state.
While the gap between Huckabee (169 votes) and Romney (97 votes) was larger in the county, the final tally was punctuated by a tight race for third. Fred Thompson finished in third with 15 percent of the votes, while John McCain was fourth with 14 percent.
With final votes tallied, 436 people participated in the 2008 county caucus. According to Floyd County Republican Party Chair Stephanie Laudner, the turnout was “overwhelming.”
She said Floyd County caucuses usually attract around 200 people. In 2000, 356 people caucused.
While the turnout impressed party officials, the night belonged to Huckabee. After the library at Charles City High School emptied, remnants of his win remained — campaign signs and stickers were left strewn about.
Huckabee’s success, Laudner said, was not surprising.
“He’s a very personable guy — a down-home person, and that’s what these people like, they like someone they can relate to,” Laudner explained.
The former governor’s personality and charisma may have swayed voters as the caucuses drew near, said Republican National Committee member Phyllis Kelly.
“He is just fantastic and when I saw him, I wanted to support him right away,” she said.
“He is very easy to visit with and comes off as a hometown guy,” she remarked. He’s not afraid to shake hands and he’s someone who will get his hands dirty.”
First-time caucus-goers Eric Tudor and Josh Redmon echoed the sentiments surrounding Huckabee, but added that his stance on key issues played a major part.
“He just seems like a really good guy. A normal guy,” Redmon said.
Tudor said he has paid attention to where each candidate stands on certain issues and is impressed with Huckabee’s anti-abortion views.
The allure of a big-time political race drew Tudor to the high school for the caucus.
“I wanted to see what this is all about, and I’ve never been to one before,” he said. “It will be nice to be part of the process. You’ve heard about it in the news the last couple weeks, so I’m excited it’s here.”
The large turnout enhanced the experience for Redmon.
“This is really cool, especially with all the people,” he said.
Experience was also a big draw for Huckabee. Laudner said many people have said his stint as a governor was a deciding factor for them.
The same was true for Romney, even though he had slipped in polls leading up to the caucus.
Laudner said the battle for third will be important as the race for the presidential nomination continues on across America.
“It’s going to be tough for those people,” she said. “The number three and number four are really going to have to battle it out.”
Kelly was impressed with McCain’s showing, saying it was strong considering that the candidate hasn’t spent much time campaigning in Iowa.
There were also surprises further down the line, she said. Ron Paul was fifth with 8 percent and Rudy Giuliani was sixth with 6 percent of the vote.
“I was surprised that (Paul) got that many votes and that Rudy didn’t get more,” Kelly said.
No other candidates received votes in Floyd County.
With the New Hampshire primaries five days away, Laudner said the race will begin to heat up — especially on the Republican side.
“Our field wasn’t set until late, so I think that’s a big key in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Florida,” she said.
And, if the numbers in Floyd County are any indication, the races may end up being tighter than originally indicated.
“This is a very high-profile election ... and people have seen the things that are happening in the United States and the world and they want to help set that policy,” Laudner said.
“I think there are good signs here for Republicans. We’re not done yet,” Kelly added.
“People were not afraid to come out tonight. That shows how much these people want a voice,” Laudner said. “We are starting to rebuild — people are coming out like they were in the Reagan years and wanting to become part of the party.
Contact Matt Barnes at email@example.com or (641) 228-3211 ext. 21