Sarah Huckabee is desperately looking for a volunteer. Her father, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, may suddenly be a front runner in Iowa and in South Carolina and even becoming competitive nationally, but his rising profile has its complications. In Iowa this frosty Des Moines morning, she is dealing with a shortage of drivers for his motorcade because they now need two media vans. "Our caravan is growing, but our driver's list isn't keeping pace, and the bus doesn't get here until the 18th," Sarah Huckabee muses out loud, high-heeled brown boots kicked off while she mulls the problem.
At 25, Sarah Huckabee is down-to-earth and hardworking, regularly putting in 90-hour weeks. After leaving her job with the Education Department in Washington, she has spent the past year directing field operations for her father's campaign. (One of her two older brothers also works for the campaign, in Little Rock, Ark.) Six weeks ago, she moved to Des Moines to be her father's eyes and ears on the ground in Iowa. "There is a degree of trust between them that is very special," says Eric Woolson, who runs the Huckabee campaign in the state.
While Mike Huckabee is surging in both polls and fund-raising, he is far behind former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in terms of organization--a key factor in Iowa, where 1,781 caucuses determine the winner. Each campaign must recruit voters in every caucus to stand up and make their candidate's case. That kind of outreach can take a long time.
"Romney has a much more extensive organization in terms of manpower," says Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Christian Alliance, who is not endorsing a candidate this cycle. Evangelicals, who make up about 40% of GOP caucusgoers, are drawn to Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor. But Romney has a formidable head start signing them up. Huckabee is scrambling to gain ground, recently taping an interview with a Christian media company--for a small fraction of the cost of television advertising--that churches and congregants can download and watch. And he's counting on the organizational prowess of his homeschooling supporters.
And Huckabee is spending a lot of his newfound money reaching out to some surprising groups, like Democrats, union members and African Americans. Evangelicals are a "natural constituency that we're looking toward," says Sarah Huckabee, "but at the same time, we're going after the people that nobody else wants, especially as Republicans, and that's why we're able to do so well." Part of her job is to help make her dad seem cool to these groups--often bringing in jazz bands so he can play bass with them at events, or organizing running groups with supporters for the marathoner. "Maybe not MTV cool," she says, laughing. "But cooler."