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.Jockeying Begins for Lott's Senate Post
Could Mississippi be part of Senate Democrats' push for 60 seats in 2008? The answer depends on whether former state attorney general Mike Moore runs.
Moore, who gained national prominence during the 1990s as a lead player in the lawsuit against tobacco companies, put out a statement last week that left plenty of wiggle room. That thrilled national Democrats who have bombarded him with pleading phone calls since Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced on Monday that he will resign.
Former governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) is clearly interested in a return to public life. Musgrove, who served from 1999 until 2003, told The Fix that he is "seriously considering running" and has been receiving considerable encouragement from around the state to do so .
Republicans don't have an obvious candidate. Rep. Roger Wicker leads the way currently, and state Treasurer Tate Reeves is also mentioned. Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has already taken himself out of the race but could have a big impact anyway; it is up to him to not only choose an interim replacement for Lott but also to set the date of the special election to fill the Senate seat.Iowa Women to Offer Tasty Incentives
Eighty percent of Iowa Democratic women stayed home for the 2004 caucus. Will taco casserole get them to turn out in 2008?
Emily's List, the Democratic fundraising powerhouse, unveiled an ambitious turnout program in Iowa aimed at 60,000 to 70,000 female Democrats who support Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, or are undecided, and who voted in 2006 but didn't participate in the 2004 Democratic caucus. In other words, they are politically active but not active enough. That's where the casserole comes in.
Through the Web site YouGoGirl.com and mass mailings, Emily's List will bombard these target voters with information about how the caucuses work, as well as tools to make it easier for them to engage. Hence the dinner recipes, provided on the Web site, for taco and chicken noodle casseroles that women can prepare in advance.
As a group committed to electing pro-choice women to public office, Emily's List has a unique stake in Clinton's candidacy, potentially the pinnacle of its 22-year crusade. To lock down voters, it will use traditional means, such as mail, as well as more innovative Web-based methods.
For instance, if you live in Iowa and you search for "recipe," "stocking stuffer" or "post-Thanksgiving sale" on Yahoo or Google, up pops a listing for YouGoGirl.com. The group also purchased banner ads on Web sites such as Cooks.com and BabyNames.com.
Emily's List officials are optimistic that the program can deliver a meaningful bloc for Clinton in a razor-thin race. "We don't need to build her support in Iowa," said Emily's List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver. "We just need to turn out the support that she has."
10 days: Des Moines Register Republican debate
11 days: Des Moines Register Democratic debate