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In an Unlikely Part of the Country, a Tiny Huckabee Movement Is Born
Laura Pedrick for The New York Times
Bill Garcia, blogging for Mike Huckabee from his home in Manalapan, N.J.
This is how Bill Garcia became what he calls a Huckabeezer.
Mr. Garcia, who is 42 and works for Bank of New York Mellon in Manhattan, moved from Queens to Manalapan, N.J., in July. He looked around for a church to join with his wife of 19 years and his three children. He settled on West Monmouth Baptist in Freehold. There he picked up a copy of New Man Magazine, a Christian men’s magazine. On the cover was a story about a Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor he had never heard of who was running for president. Mr. Garcia liked his views on faith and family values and was impressed that he seemed to have a real record on education and other issues.
He went to the Mike Huckabee for President Web site and learned more, and soon he learned how to put up his own pro-Huckabee blog, called Bill’s Weblog, at njchristiansforhuckabee.wordpress.com. He stuck a Huckabee bumper sticker to the top of his computer monitor at work and voilà, as this year’s improbable political free-for-alls began to play out, for the first time in his life he felt like a player in the game.
“I liked that he had religious values that matched mine, but also that he had a record of doing something about them,” Mr. Garcia said. “I feel we live in a society where we need to step back and maybe go back in time, and when I started telling people about him, it was like converting someone or sharing the Gospel with them. The way this thing has snowballed is pretty cool.”
It’s probably safe to guess that the New York region is not overrun with triumphant Huckabee supporters, delirious over their man’s rise from the back of the pack to the king (Republican version) of Iowa. But in the eHarmony way that matches get made these days, Mr. Garcia is not alone either.
SO along with those scratching their heads over the Republican results or too engrossed in the Obama-Hillary Battle of the Blue State Titans to care, there is, even here, a small core of the Huckabee faithful, feeling as if they stuck their hand in the Cracker Jack box and pulled out a diamond.
“I just wanted to support someone I could feel proud about supporting,” said David Friedrich, a first-grade teacher in Hopewell Township, N.J. “To say that seeing him do so well is thrilling would be an understatement.”
True, even the relatively few people who make their way to Mr. Garcia’s blog, which has had more than 5,000 hits, aren’t all converts. “This is just a warning from a fellow Christian; Huckabee is that glass-jaw candidate that Democrats have been looking for,” said one of the dozen or so posters on the site.
“Does it bother anyone but me that Mr. Huckabee has been caught in so many lies?” asked another, who added: “It takes more than just saying ‘Jesus’ for my vote. It should for Christians, too. Or do you just blank out anything but the abortion issue?”
But for long-suffering Christian conservatives in the Northeast, who often see themselves as a righteous remnant in a realm dominated by Liberal Mammon, Mr. Huckabee has already attracted a small but committed core with an appeal rooted in religion and conservative values. (“Fighting for Faith, Families and Freedom,” says the home page of the New York Christian Coalition. “Faith. Family. Freedom,” says the Huckabee for President home page.)
The most optimistic also see something more: the vision of “compassionate conservatism” that they feel George W. Bush promised and never delivered, a blend of conservative values and pragmatic politics that transcends the Christian conservative label.
“He has a genuineness and sincerity that really resonates and that we haven’t seen in quite a while,” said Peter Kane, a veteran Republican who is his volunteer New Jersey field coordinator — though it would be a stretch to call Mr. Huckabee’s organization skeletal in any state in the region. “I mean, here’s a guy who talks about increasing funding for music and art education in the schools. When was the last time any politician, let alone a Republican one, talked about increasing funding on music and art in the schools and actually put his money down to do it?”
OF course, some will say it’s more important for a potential president to be knowledgeable about Pakistan and Iraq than about music and art, but at week’s end the scattered Huckabeezers of Greater New York were abuzz, hopeful if not of victories in the states where they live, at least about results from more distant locales.
So the Rev. Al Stewart, pastor of the Franklin Congregational Church in Franklin, Conn., was ready to venture to New Hampshire on Monday to support his man there. “I haven’t been involved in the political process per se for 10 years, and this guy brought me back,” Mr. Stewart said. “He did for me what Obama did for many Democrats, and I see that as a good thing.”