Obama, Huckabee Have Media Mastery in Common
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are two very different candidates, but they share a few things in common. They were both media favorites leading up to last night's Iowa caucuses.
NPR's David Folkenflik caught up with some long-time political reporters to ask how that happened.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: No one loves an underdog more than the press. For very different reasons, it's given a one-term senator and a folksy weight-dropping former governor an awfully gentle ride. Let's start with the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
Max Brantley is the editor of the liberal weekly, the Arkansas Times, who's often tangled with Huckabee.
Mr. MAX BRANTLEY (Editor, Arkansas Times): Well, Mike Huckabee hit the national scene much as he did in Arkansas. He's a charming fellow with a quick wit. And reporters loved him at the start and paid not a whole lot of attention to what he was saying beyond his personality.
FOLKENFLIK: Until around November, Huckabee made little impact on the media radar. But he gravitated to just about every microphone that would have him. And he often beat others to the punch line, as he did last month in talking about his foreign affairs experience on Don Imus' radio show.
(Soundbite of radio show "Imus in the Morning")
Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Arkansas Governor; Republican Presidential Candidate): You know, I may not be the expert of some people on foreign policy, but I did stay in the Holiday Inn Express last night.
FOLKENFLIK: When Huckabee made several off-the-mark comments after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, it was as though he had already inoculated himself from the criticism that he was too green to be a world leader.
Max Brantley compares Huckabee to Ronald Reagan.
Mr. BRANTLEY: He's built a Teflon coating around himself with the narrative the media has built of a nice guy who's just like you and me. And you and me, we make mistakes. And when Mike Huckabee, who is just one of us, makes a mistake, we tend to forgive it.
FOLKENFLIK: On Wednesday, right on the eve of the caucuses, Huckabee flew to California for a less than grueling grilling by Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."
(Soundbite of TV program "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno")
Mr. JAY LENO (Host, "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"): You literally, in the last couple of months, come from nowhere with hardly any money. How - explain how this happened. How did you…
Mr. HUCKABEE: I'm just trying to keep from going back to nowhere as fast I got here.
FOLKENFLIK: His Democratic counterpart arrived in a hurry as well. Barack Obama has served just three years in the U.S. Senate. And he recalled his start in political life in a speech to supporters last night in Iowa.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Organizing and working and fighting to make people's lives just a little bit better.
FOLKENFLIK: The address sent MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski into rhapsodies this morning.
Mr. JOE SCARBOROUGH (MSNBC Host): Trying to stop that momentum over the next four days will be a lot like standing in front of a hurricane on Pensacola Beach. I don't know how you do it.
Ms. MIKA BRZEZINSKI (MSNBC host): I don't know how you do it at this point as well. His speech last night was certainly his moment. He rose to the occasion. You could tell he was really feeling it.
FOLKENFLIK: Veteran Chicago Tribune political reporter Jill Zuckman says Obama has received kind treatment from the press, even though he's not as media-hungry as Huckabee.
Ms. JILL ZUCKMAN (Political Reporter, Chicago Tribune): I think he's been taken seriously because he's had a lot of star value. So I think television likes to talk about him. I think newspapers like to write about him.
FOLKENFLIK: Democratic faithful might like Obama's early stance against the war in Iraq, but reporters, of course, like a fresh story, one that's not about, say, a world-renowned former first lady methodically crushing the opposition.
Mr. MATTHEW COOPER (Washington Editor, Conde Nast Portfolio): They've bought the basic premise of his campaign, that he's change, she's not, and they've echoed it.
FOLKENFLIK: Matthew Cooper is the Washington editor of Conde Nast Portfolio. And it should be disclosed, his wife is a senior strategist for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Cooper says the press can be awfully fickle. He's watching the caustic New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who's previously depicted Senator Obama as a very specific deer caught in the headlights.
Mr. COOPER: Let's see when the next morning and Obambi column comes. That'll be a sign that the tide is turning.
FOLKENFLIK: And when that happens, Cooper says, using a wince-worthy metaphor, then it'll be Obama's turn or Huckabee's in the media blender.
David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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