Mike Huckabee’s Fox News Problem

I was standing near the booth of Team Huck when the text went out at the Values Voters Summit on Saturday: Huckabee had come in second place in the Summit’s straw poll, in which just 723 people voted.

While we still didn’t know who the winner was these activists shrugged off the second place finish. After all, they’re used to being snubbed.

As it turned out, Huckabee was edged out by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) (a perennial VVS favorite) by just two percentage points. But even before the Team Huck volunteers knew this, they had some theories about why their guy didn’t come in first.

“Fox News skips him,” said Lynn Lewis, a Team Huck volunteer from Northern Virginia. After Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, “McCain and Thompson kneecapped him [in South Carolina], claimed he wasn’t a fiscal conservative.” Then, Lewis maintained, when the candidates moved on to Florida, “Fox News reported that Huckabee wasn’t campaigning there.” Sean Hannity, she continued, “said it on his radio show and wouldn’t correct it” and it was an “outright lie.”

“You could’ve made a case for election tampering,” she added.

I haven’t, naturally, reviewed all of Fox News’ coverage of the Florida primary. But according to these women, the alleged snubbing of Huckabee has become somewhat legendary. Shelley Ahlersmeyer, a Team Huck volunteer from Indiana, said, “this is a big story among Huckabee supporters.”

Both women objected to what they said was Fox News’ description of Huckabee as “pastor,” not “governor.” Lewis added, “a lot of Americans won’t vote for a pastor, there’s an anti-church thing. Mitt Romney is a bishop in the LDS Church and they never talk about that because we’re a ‘tolerant society.’ That’s a big hot potato you can’t touch… that disparity and that imbalance, it’s so unfair.” She further complained that “it’s like there’s a media blackout and a lot of tea party people watch Fox.”

Both Lewis and Ahlersmeyer consider themselves tea partiers and attend tea party events, but were disgruntled that, as Ahlersmeyer put it, “I think people have been told Palin is the tea party. Why is that? I don’t know.”

“She’s exciting,” said Lewis.

“She’s a woman, she goes out there, therefore she gets all the limelight,” chimed in Amy Walker, a Huckabee supporter from Alaska who was also supporting Joe Miller, the GOP Senate candidate Palin supported over incumbent Lisa Murkowski. “I would hands down support Huckabee,” Walker said. “As much as I respect Sarah Palin, Huckabee has the experience, the ability, the fortitude, everything that you need.”

All three women extolled what they described as Huckabee’s connection with ordinary people. Walker contrasted him to Fox personalities Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, saying, “People won’t come near them because they have this very offensive attitude. They’re ‘like you’re the enemy, we’re against you.’ That’s not Huckabee.”

Lewis, in a mock-snob voice, added the “fraternity members” of the national party don’t like him either, but “in the present climate, that could help him.”

They lamented the predominance of signs for Palin and Ron Paul at tea party events. Lewis said, “Palin has a bright personality, there’s so much story around her, it’s almost like she sucks the air out of the room.”

“Governor Huckabee is viewed as a statesman and she’s viewed as a celebrity,” said Walker, the Alaskan.

I asked these women what they made of Huckabee speaking at the Values Voters Summit, while Palin instead spoke at a Republican fundraiser in Iowa. Lewis smiled. “Iowa already loves him.”

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email