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Whirlwind victory dizzies Huckabee and his camp

January 04, 2008|Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writer

DES MOINES — The presidential prospects of Mike Huckabee are rising too fast for his campaign to keep up. Word of the former Arkansas governor's victory in the Iowa caucuses Thursday night came so quickly that his staff seemed unprepared.

The hotel ballroom in this city's East Village wasn't yet a quarter full, and the blue-and-white "I Like Mike" backdrop behind the podium had not been erected. Neither the candidate nor his family had reached the hotel. The only activity was the prayer circle formed by a dozen or so supporters, mostly volunteers from out of state.

But just 45 minutes after the caucuses began, there was the campaign manager, John "Chip" Saltsman (who had once thought he'd be spending this year working for fellow Tennesseean Bill Frist, before Frist left the Senate). He told reporters and the small audience that things looked good.

Two minutes later, Mitt Romney appeared on a giant TV in the room and conceded, to a loud cheer from Huckabee's crowd of only about 50.

Several people with young children had to head home by 9 o'clock. Bedtime beckoned.

Organization quickly became a pressing issue. Saltsman, looking like a deer in the headlights of a surge of cameras, said the campaign needed more people to handle all the press. Ed Rollins, the strategist who joined the campaign a little more than a month ago, came out to make the media rounds.

The campaign is short on staff, and Rollins told every interviewer he could find that the Huckabee effort needed volunteers and cash. "Send money," he said.

Again and again.


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