Operation: Kiss Mike Huckabee's Ring

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 14 2011 9:00 PM

Operation: Kiss Mike Huckabee's Ring

DES MOINES -- Four presidential candidates arrived at a classic downtown theater tonight to introduce a documentary. That sounds odd. Some context: The documentary was "The Gift of Life," the newest production of Citizens United, hosted by Mike Huckabee. The winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, looking a lot thicker than he did on victory night, thanked the crowd for coming to see a pro-life film and thanked the candidates -- Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, Santorum -- for making it. "The ones who couldn't be here sent their support," he said, "but take note of the four candidates who added this event to their schedules." (Just two weeks ago, Huckabee had brought these candidates, Romney, and Paul on to his Fox News show for an interview session. That's a lot of ring-kissing.) The winner of the in-person support contest was Gingrich, who (as this horrible iPhone photo proves) stayed in the room to watch the movie, taking a seat behind evangelical kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats. Gingrich, bottom right, is the guy with the hair.

photo (6)

Gingrich's actual pitch to moviegoers was savvy. Other candidates (chiefly Bachmann) talked about the importance of overturning Roe. Gingrich suggested that Congress could use its authority -- forget about the courts -- to define "personhood" as starting at conception. Pro-lifers, who've been screwed over more than almost anyone in the GOP coalition, hear plenty of people talk about personhood amendments or repealing Roe. But this was new. The radical rethink of the of judicial-legislative relationship is a strong card for Gingrich, something he pushes at every forum of voters like this.

How'd the non-frontrunners do? Like I said, Bachmann went for personal connection, talking about her own miscarriage, but remained fixated on her Joan of Arc role as the destroyer of ObamaCare. Half of her remarks were about how the health care law funds abortion (it doesn't), and how she'd repeal it. Perry, alone among the candidates, read from notes. Santorum could hardly find safer turf if he spoke on his own lawn.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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