ELDORA, Iowa -- Julie Roe, an early believer in Mike Huckabee, worked with
what she had.
With no buttons, no yard signs and no glossy literature from his nearly invisible Iowa campaign, she took a pair of scissors and cut out a photograph of the former Arkansas governor. She pasted it on a piece of paper, scribbled down some of his positions, made copies and launched the Huckabee for President campaign in rural Hardin County.
Roe contacted friends in her home-schooling network and bought a newspaper advertisement for $38. She spread the word in the grocery store and the church foyer: "I would tell them about Mike Huckabee and they would say, 'Who's Mike Huckleberry?' I'd say, 'No, no, no, it's Huckabee.' "
Huckabee's name is no longer a mystery to Iowa's Republican voters, in large part because of an extensive network of home-schoolers like Roe who have helped lift his underfunded campaign from obscurity to the front of a crowded field. Opinion polls show that his haphazard approach is trumping the studied strategy of Mitt Romney, who invested millions only to be shunned by many religious conservatives such as Roe, who see the former Baptist preacher from Hope, Ark., as their champion.
While early attention focused on Romney and other better-known and better-funded opponents, home-schoolers rallied to Huckabee's cause, attracted by his faith, his politics and his decision to appoint a home-school proponent to the Arkansas board of education. They tapped a web of community and church
groups that share common conservative interests, blasting them with e-mails and
passing along the word about Huckabee in social settings.
It was the endorsement by prominent national home-school advocate Michael Farris that helped propel Huckabee to a surprising second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll in August. And it was the twin sons of a home-school advocate in Oregon who helped put Huckabee in touch with television tough guy Chuck Norris, who appeared alongside him in an attention-getting TV spot and on the campaign trail.
Home-schoolers could also prove to be a powerful force on caucus night. By one estimate, about 9,000 Iowa children are home-schooled. Their parents could form a sizable portion of the 80,000 or so Republicans expected to show up on Jan. 3.
Huckabee's apparent success has been a surprise to many and there's no doubt from this article that homeschoolers are an integral part of his success not so much because of their educational choices but because they rely so much on word-of mouth to share information. Whether this campaign tactic leads to success on January 3rd remains to be seen. But if it does, it could fundamentally change poitical campaigns to focus more on word-of mouth communication than more traditional forms of political advertising.