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Huckabee's Black Belt Assist

Updated: 3:15

GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee has his first television ad up and running in Iowa, featuring a face familiar to many TV viewers: Chuck Norris. The former Walker, Texas Ranger is now supporting the former Arkansas governor.
"Mike Huckabee is a lifelong hunter who'll protect our Second Amendment rights," Norris says in the ad, looking like the martial arts champion he is, a man whose rights--to bear arms or otherwise--it may seem prudent not to mess with.

The playful banter from the martial artists/television star and Baptist minister/presidential candidate is of a different mold than many of the more biographical candidate ads on the Iowa airwaves these days. So will it play in Davenport?

Not necessarily with the martial arts crowd. Nick Tarpein runs a martial arts center there and has trained several fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Champion circuit. Tarpein, who has been teaching martial arts in Iowa since the 1970s, said he's not aware of anyone in the area who teaches the Norris-created Chun Kuk Do hybrid martial art. Davenport is more of a UFC town--one champion has a school nearby and Tarpein, admittedly not a neutral bystander, but a close-observer of the field nonetheless said "people talk about Iowa, and they say that's where you go for UFC training."

Tarpein described himself as "pretty conservative" and said he is currently leaning toward Romney, but "if another guy comes out, I'd be open."

He said he hadn't heard much from Huckabee at all yet, and the new ad, which he said he saw part of during news coverage last night, didn't look promising.

"When I saw it, it kind of turned me off," Tarpein said. "Chuck Norris was a great movie star, and a good point fighter, but in today's martial arts world he's just not that tough. So it kind of seems like a double joke on Chuck Norris."

It's not that he thinks there's no room for humor in political ads. He said he liked the Bill Richardson spot where the New Mexico governor deadpanned about his looks (""I'm sure not the best looking, or the flashiest, but I know who I am. And I know how hard I'll work for you.) "That was kind of humorous," Tarpein said. "I guess it's a way to get people to watch this stuff. But it's important not to go overboard. This is the highest office in the land and you're poking fun of it."

He added that other non martial arts professionals may feel differently about the Huckabee ad. "I guess I just don't have a real high opinion of Chuck Norris, I don't think he's a real great martial artist, that's just my personal opinion."

For more on Norris and Huckabee, check out Channel '08's fine summary of the ad and of the finer points of the Chuck Norris oeuvre.

--Rachel Dry

By Washington Post editors  |  November 19, 2007; 11:14 AM ET
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