The Man Who Helped Start Huckabee's Roll

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, December 2, 2007

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's surge in Iowa, from single digits in the polls to a virtual tie for the lead among Republicans, has captivated the political world and prompted speculation about just how he did it.

The Fix may have found the answer: a physician from Montgomery, Ala., named Randy Brinson.

Brinson is the keeper of a massive e-mail list of much-coveted Christian voters that Huckabee is using to reach and organize people in early-voting states such as Iowa.

Brinson's list numbers about 71 million contacts, with 25 million identified as belonging to "25 and 45 years old, upwardly mobile, right-of-center, conservative households," he said. In other words, a target-rich environment for a candidate such as Huckabee, who is preaching a compassionate conservative message heavily infused with religious sentiment.

"You can't win an election with this narrow focus of social conservatives, economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives," Brinson said. "That has fallen on deaf ears with [James] Dobson and those guys."

How did a doctor from Alabama come to possess one of the most coveted lists in Republican politics? Brinson has actor/director Mel Gibson to thank for that one.

In February 2004, Brinson, who has worked on and off in politics for much of his life, was at a gathering of national religious broadcasters when he ran into a group of people doing the early marketing efforts for Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ."

It was a match made in, well, heaven. Brinson had been noodling with ideas about how to build a list to reach the Christian community for the better part of a year and had even formed Redeem the Vote, a voter registration organization. The marketers coveted his know-how, and an alliance was born.

By piggybacking onto pitches made for the movie, Brinson was able to collect 12 million addresses in short order. But it wasn't until Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in the film, taped a pitch for Redeem the Vote that the list really took off. Caviezel's video was e-mailed to more than 60 million people, Brinson said, and started a chain of events that eventually turned the list into a behemoth.

Huckabee got involved with Redeem the Vote on the ground floor, agreeing to serve as the chairman of the organization's national advisory committee in 2004. After the 2004 presidential election, Brinson went to each of the presidential campaigns, Republicans and Democrats, to pitch his list. Huckabee bit, hiring Webcasting TV -- a for-profit manager of the list -- as a consultant to his campaign. (Redeem the Vote is a not-for-profit group and, as such, does no political work.)

In Iowa alone, Brinson's list has produced 414,000 contacts for the Huckabee campaign, a stunning number given that less than one-quarter of that total is expected to vote in January's Republican caucuses.

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