Mike Huckabee is a man among his own people.  And his people love Mike Huckabee.

The first time the presenter said his name–before he was introduced–he received loud cheers and a standing ovation.  It was a sign of things to come.

With a well-structured speech, Huckabee won over the crowd handily.  He was humorous from the beginning, relaying a story of a lady who at the beginning of his political career asked him if he was “a narrow-minded Baptist who thinks only Baptists go to heaven.”  “I’m more narrow-minded than that,” Huck responded.  “I don’t think some of the Baptists will make it.”

He was clear on his positions on various issues.  He thinks that our freedom, families and faith are all under attack.  He began with the war against Islamofascism, apparently hoping to allay concerns about his soft national security policy.  He was strong on immigration, receiving rousing cheers in calling for the border to be closed and clearly emphasizing that he blames the government for the problem, not the people coming across.

He was as expected on family issues–in fact, it was the briefest part of his speech.  This audience doesn’t need to hear his position on family issues.  They know what Huck stands for here.
And when articulating the assault on the faith, Huck didn’t shy away from taking shots at those who want to woo the “values voters” votes, namely Rudy and Mitt.  He claimed, “People who are seeking our support should sing from the heart rather than lip sync the words to our songs.  I don’t think that people should have more political positions than Elvis had waste sizes.”

But most importantly for Huckabee, he offered a stirring appeal to those who think like him to refuse to put politics above principle, to support his candidacy for President rather than compromising, implicitly comparing himself to Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.  He closed with an appeal to social conservatives to put their fortunes and their sacred honor to work and not compromise their platform.

It was a beautiful speech, and the crowd loved him.  I’ll go out on a limb and claim that it will be Huckabee who will win the straw poll here–at least the straw poll of the votes on the ground.  More than any other candidate thus far, Mike Huckabee had the room energetic, enthusiastic and excited.

It wasn’t a perfect speech, of course.  He gave generalizations about what he would do, rather than specific changes.  He didn’t outline his leadership qualifications, leaving us wondering why he should be the one to make these policy changes.  But for the amount of time he had, Huckabee took large strides toward invigorating his campaign and rallying troops around him.

Will the evangelical leaders that are apparently meeting to decide whom to back value the enthusiasm over “electability?”  Will they prefer Romney’s managerial experience and ability to raise funds, and view him as a more “complete package” because of his economic policies?

Questions remain,  but one answer is clear–Mike Huckabee deserves to be considered as a top-tier candidate for the Republican party.  Even with his unusual (for Republican) financial views, he is a solid campaigner and a world-class communicator who could be an extraordinarily effective President.

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.