Young Evangelicals Find a Candidate in Huckabee

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The conservative evangelical old guard has been slow to embrace GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, but young evangelicals have had few reservations. Brett Harris, 19, co-funded Huck's Army, which he calls the future of Christian conservatism. Harris spent the past two days hanging out with Huckabee backer Chuck Norris in Texas before heading to South Carolina for the primary campaign.


Okay, despite his credentials as a Baptist minister, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is having kind of a tough time gaining support from the conservative Christian establishment. They do like his stance on abortion and gay marriage, but they're skeptical of his economic populism and his positions on addressing global warming, among other things. The high-profile leaders of the conservative evangelical movement have either endorsed other candidates or they just haven't made up their minds. Either way, they have not thrown a support behind Huckabee.

But what Huckabee has failed to get from the old guard, he's making up with the youth votes. When he won the Iowa caucus earlier this month, he did better among caucus goers under the age of 30 then he did with any other age group. So what is it about Huckabee that's gotten him this kind of support from younger voters?

Joining us now is Brett Harris. He's a 19-year-old, originally from Oregon. A self described evangelical Christian conservative and the co-founder with his twin brother, actually, a something called HucksArmy, and another Web site called The, which calls itself a teenage rebellion against low expectations. He's down in Texas now, I believe.

You've been kind of on the move, haven't you?

Mr. BRETT HARRIS (Co-founder, Yes. We have. We had just got in from South Carolina last night. We're back here - actually, I'm on Chuck Norris' ranch right now. So…

MARTIN: What? That is so cool. What is it like to be on Chuck Norris' ranch?

Mr. HARRIS: It's really scary, you know? You sneaking into the house in the middle of the night and you'll find, find an Advil or something. You're sure Chuck Norris is going to catch you…

MARTIN: He's waiting in the corner.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: It's past your bed time, kid.

Mr. HARRIS: There's guns all over the walls, and movie posters of him kicking people so…

MARTIN: Wow. So for people who are - who have been living in the cave and don't know that Chuck Norris is a big supporter of Huckabees, thus your trip to Mr. Norris' ranch. Can I ask you to step back a little bit? What drew you to Mike Huckabee in the first place? Whey did you decide that this was going to be your candidate?

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah, you know, I think there are really two things. You know, the first - got us interested and the second got us hook and I when I say us or we, you know, I'm talking as a twin, so won't freak out and think I have multiple personalities or something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HARRIS: But, you know, what really grabbed our attention about Mike Huckabee is that he is a great communicator, you know? He's the only candidate who's saying things like I'm a conservative, but I'm not mad at anybody about it. And, you know, for us we just felt like our country is really polarized right now, really divided. And we need someone who can get things done, not by compromising, but like communicating, by inspiring people. And that's what Mike Huckabee is able to do, just through the way he can present his conservative message.

MARTIN: When you say that other evangelical leaders say that they're - they've got some kind of pent-up anger about being an evangelical. Can you tell us a little more? What are you talking about? Where does that anger stem from and what don't you like about that?

Mr. HARRIS: Well, you know, I think the anger is more and, you know, the perception, you know, the way other people perceive. Some of these other leaders, it's not - I don't know if they're necessarily really angry, but it is definitely the way they can come across sometimes. And - well, I think the reason for that is that, you know, a lot of times where whether it's just be evangelical leaders or just conservatives in general.

In the past we've been a lot more against things, you know? We're against abortion. We're against, you know, gay marriage. We're against all these things and we're not really for anything. And that doesn't mean we have to find totally different issues, but with Mike Huckabee, you know, he's not against abortion so much as he's for life. You know, he's not against gay marriage as he is for traditional marriage. And it's a transition. It's a maturing I think, of the conservative message. So, you know, (unintelligible) really for things and to say, you know, we're not just afraid of everything. We're not just mad at everything. We're just - we just see the beauty and some of these - the whole things.

MARTIN: And when you say…


Hey, Brett, can I…

MARTIN: Go ahead, Alison.

STEWART: Can I (unintelligible) for a second?

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: You know, I'm looking at this picture of you guys on Wired - did a story about you and your brother. You're both sitting behind Mac computers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: And one thing about trying to get out to the youth vote is the technology's has made it really cheap and really easy to get the message around. What do you and your brothers do on - you and your brother, excuse me, do on these computers to get the message out?

Mr. HARRIS: Oh, we do a lot of stuff. You know, the technology and the Internet has just revolutionized the political process and, especially for young people. You know, if young people could vote online, you know, we probably have a higher turnout rate than any one else.

But what we're doing online we have - we started this Web site, and, basically, we built a national grassroots organization for Governor Huckabee. I mean, he doesn't have the resources, the staff to, you know, have a national organization at this point.

So what we're doing is we're building that infrastructure for him, just grassroots. And so we have about 14,000 members, you know. A lot of these are, you know, probably 30 and younger, and we're using the service called Meetup. You can go to the Web site, and that's a service that allows like-minded people to find each other in their own areas. So we have about, you know, 450 different groups in all these different cities across the country, you know? And these are people who are finding local supporters, getting together. They're using the Internet, you know, to facilitate, you know, real world, face-to-face interaction and activity.

MARTIN: And, Brett, as I understand it, some of the appeal for younger voters is what you said about being for things and Huckabee said he's for life and what he means by that, as I understand it, is he's for life all the way through. So he's talking about things like education as a value and being pro-life.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah.

STEWART: Welfare, as a value and being pro-life and these are not traditional Republican words. So he's catching a little flak from Republicans who say, you're kind of betraying us a little bit here.

Mr. HARRIS: Absolutely. And, you know what? One of the key, you know, the key turning points in our decision to back him was when he was on a - the show with Jon Stewart. And was asked to give basically his pro-life position and he did and he talked about some of things you're saying basically when he care about life in the womb from the conception.

But also, you know, all the way through the national conclusion and that includes things like education and jobs and health care and things that are all life issues as well.

MARTIN: So what do you say when…

Mr. HARRIS: And he got an applause. He got an applause from this - you know, the Jon Stewart show is not, you know, a conservative haven, you know. So that was incredible for us to see that. He's not bringing, you know, Democrat or liberal philosophies to these issues. But he's actually addressing them, which is more than other conservatives are doing.

MARTIN: So when people, George Will wrote recently that Mike Huckabee's campaign is, quote, "comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs. Well, your response to that then?

Mr. HARRIS: Well, my response to all of these, you know, the people who label him as like a big government Republican or whatever the charges are is that he's not really that as much as he's a right government - a Republican. And he sees the other role of government and he's gotten the results. You know, as much as they say these things, you know, he is the guy who - he's the guy who passed a marriage amendment in Arkansas, a life amendment. The Arkansas - the people of Arkansas repeatedly reelected him. He turned the $250-million deficit to $850-million surplus. He improved the roads, schools…


Mr. HARRIS: …education. So the thing is that I feel, as I think that some people, you know, hate him because he didn't always do things their way. But, you know, they haven't gotten the results doing it their way. You know, everyone is saying, you know, he's an apostate, but what have they accomplished, and I really think young people in particular, but I think voters in general, you know, are ready for a new way that works and…

MARTIN: Okay, well, thank - Brett Harris. Thank you so much. We have to leave it there. You are the co-founder, along with your twin brother of HucksArmy and the Thanks so much for talking about this issue with us.

Mr. HARRIS: Oh, it's great being on.

STEWART: Take care.

Mr. HARRIS: All right.

STEWART: Thanks, Brett.

Mr. HARRIS: Thank you.

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