Magazine article Newsweek

Chuck and Huck: GOP's Delta Force?

Magazine article Newsweek

Chuck and Huck: GOP's Delta Force?

Article excerpt

Byline: Howard Fineman

Here's a Chuck Norris fact you may not know. If Chuck Norris endorses you and appears in one of your campaign's TV ads, you take the lead in an Iowa poll and your Web server crashes. That's what happened to Mike Huckabee, the shrewder-than-you-realize former Arkansas governor (sound familiar?) who has become a major player in the tight Republican presidential race. The ad opens with Huckabee deadpanning: "My plan to secure the border? Two words: Chuck Norris." The camera moves back to reveal the Man Himself, who praises Huckabee as a solid, gun-loving, IRS-loathing conservative. Huckabee adds a twist at the end. "I approved this message ... So did Chuck." The ad, which ran in Iowa on cable for a week, has generated an astonishing 1.5 million YouTube views and clogged the campaign's Web site. Huckabee was rising in Iowa even before the ad, but he took the lead with Chuck as Huckster.

Celebrity endorsements, of course, are as old as presidential politics. George Washington -- the Chuck Norris of his day -- did not cut a TV spot for John Adams, but everyone knew which candidate the father of our country favored in the 1796 election. In 2008, the synergy of the Internet and pop culture has taken the practice to a whole new level. Word that Oprah would endorse -- and campaign for -- Barack Obama sent Hillary Clinton's campaign into the red-alert rollout of Barbra Streisand and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and an amped-up stump schedule for her husband, Bill.

Now that the Gipper is gone and Charlton Heston is in his 80s, Norris has emerged as a dream celebrity "get" on the Republican side: a half-Cherokee Oklahoman and born-again Christian conservative with a ranch in Texas, an eighth-degree black belt in karate, a syndicated column and a multigenerational movie, TV and Internet cult following. When Norris called in October to say that he wanted to endorse Huckabee, the former governor's campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, knew that he had been handed a political triple play. …

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