The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Huckabee's Price of Admission: $100,000

Mike Huckabee finished second in Ames while spending less money than his rivals, though he did have a little help from the King. (AP).

Relishing his second-place finish in the Ames, Iowa straw poll on Saturday, Mike Huckabee yesterday noted that he managed to snare 18 percent of the vote despite investing much less in the event than his top rivals. "It wasn't just that we surprised people with a second showing, it's that we did it with so few resources," he said. "This really was feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves."

Actually, crumbs might have been more like it, considering just how huge the disparity is between the former Arkansas governor and the poll's winner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who collected 32 percent of the vote. Until the next round of campaign finance reports appear in October, there is no way of knowing exactly how much campaigns spent on the straw poll, but the basic outlines are clear. Huckabee says he spent little more than $100,000 on the event, while earlier campaign finance reports show that Romney spent more than that simply on the stipends he paid about 60 'volunteers' in Iowa for several months leading up to the polls -- between $500 and $1,000 per month to local supporters tasked with talking him up in their towns. Rival campaigns estimate Romney spent more than $2 million preparing for the straw poll, not including more than $2 million in television ads he has purchased in Iowa.

The clearest apple-to-apple comparison can be found in the campaign finance filings the two candidates have made through June 30, which lay bare just how broad the gap is between the men who finished atop the Ames poll. Through the first half of the year, Romney spent $32 million nationally to Huckabee's $853,000. (Huckabee's fundraising for the first half was so meager that it lagged behind even other second tier candidates such as Ron Paul, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo). Romney spent nearly $3 million on political and financial consultants to Huckabee's roughly $100,000, and $4 million on direct mail efforts to Huckabee's $58,000. Payrolls? Romney listed about 180 people on staff during the first half of the year, for a total of $5.5 million in salaries over that time, exactly ten times as many bodies as Huckabee's 18, who earned a total of $234,000. These bodies, of course, required more desks -- Romney spent $333,000 on office equipment and furniture, to $9,000 for Huckabee. Romney spent $788,000 on polling to Huckabee's zero.

And Romney has lived much larger on the social scene. Through the end of June, he spent $1.8 million on fundraisers and other events, with just a handful of events easily surpassing Huckabee's $58,000 total events spending for the period, much of which came in the form of reimbursements to supporters who provided their own refreshments. Romney spent $35,000 on a clambake caterer in Connecticut in May, $32,000 on the Boston convention center for a fundraiser in January -- and a total of $16,000 on tickets at several ballparks around the country.

Of course, if Huckabee's second place finish in Ames gives him a much-needed boost in fundraising, he may start, ever so slowly, to close the money gap. And to celebrate, he could even take his staff to a ballgame or two.

--Alec MacGillis

Posted at 5:00 PM ET on Aug 13, 2007
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johnsamwallace, I sincerely urge you to not base your vote on statements made from candidate's supporters. It's important to remember that a candidate's supporters endorse a candidate. It's not the other way around.

Posted by: hurdleprince | August 20, 2007 10:04 PM

I'm a bass player, I have a Ph.D., and I just decided I'm not voting for Ron Paul.

Posted by: johnsamwallace | August 18, 2007 1:37 PM

Mike Huckabee is certainly a serious candidate, and was a good governor..He cleaned up the financial mess and over riding corruption left by his predecessor and left with the state holding a substantial surplus.
He has a refreshing common sense approach to things which works!
At last! a man who cares more for Americans than for his own gain..

Posted by: oldoc2001 | August 15, 2007 12:23 PM

I am completely disgusted by the fixing that went on in the Ames Iowa Straw Poll. Huckabee is a joke. He is not a serious candidate, and there is NO WAY he got more votes than Ron Paul. No bass player would ever make a good President.

Posted by: goneresistance | August 14, 2007 5:42 PM

I attended the straw poll and voted for Gov. Mike Huckabee. They did provide a ticket for me, but so did every single other candidate except for Duncan Hunter. Everyone else could have their ticket provided. I do know many people who did not use a ticket provided by him, but did still vote for him. They paid for their own ticket and that was a way of contributing to his campaign. He did not charter a single bus (Romney was reported as chartering at LEAST 10, but won't tell exactly how many he chartered). His area was not near as extravagant as many of the other candidates. He may not have had a ton of money, but he used the money he did have wisely. I admire him even more for being able to accomplish so much with so little resources.
In response to the man who thought he was the worst governor they had ever seen, why did the state re-elect him. He was governor for 10 and a half years, he must have been doing something right to be re-elected.

I have met Mike and gone to three events. I have talked with him personally and let me tell you, I was so impressed. I've never really been into politics, but I finally feel we have a candidate who is genuine, a true leader, honest, and a man of character. I think he would be PERFECT for the United States. He has some amazing ideas for our country, and he really cares about people. You could see that so clearly.

Posted by: jsschoo | August 14, 2007 1:33 PM

Mike Huckabee may have come in 2nd. in
Iowa, but he was the worst Governor that
Arkansas ever had, and I should know,
because I have lived in Arkansas for all
of my 70 years. All he knew how to do was
raise taxes.

Posted by: mfreeman9 | August 14, 2007 10:46 AM

We need to know more about this guy. If he runs an efficient campaign, maybe he'll run an efficient government.

Posted by: robinficker | August 14, 2007 9:58 AM

He had a little help from "the King", and a lot of help from the Fair Tax organizaition. Try looking into that one. I doubt any of Huckabees voters paid for their own tickets.

Posted by: ksteurer | August 14, 2007 1:16 AM

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