Huckabee came out swinging, which many assumed would happen, but it was an even far more aggressive, direct speech than I expected. While he didn't mention other candidates by name, he was clearly challenging their credibility with evangelical Christians. "I come to you not as one that comes to you, but as one that comes from you," he said. And later: "It's important that people sing from the hearts and don't just lip-sync the lyrics." The candidate they back should "speak in the mother tongue," he said, going on to cite numerous Biblical stories and verses to reaffirm his own ability to do so. David, Goliath, Elijah, Galilee, Jesus putting mud in the eyes of a blind man – he pounded out a sound-bite-sized recap of the Bible just to make it clear that he's still very much a Southern Baptist minister.
He's clearly making a case for evangelicals to endorse him for president, and possibly for them to run him as the third-party candidate should any of the other three win the nomination.
"I don't want expediency or electability to replace our vales. We live or die by those values," he said. "I want to make it very clear that I do not spell with 'G-O-D,' 'G-O-P.' Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important."
He also hit on the right subject areas – abortion, gay marriage, immigration, appointment of federal judges -- and was the only candidate to drop the word "Islamofascism" into his speech this weekend. He also got in some plugs for the need for energy independence and the reviving the American industrial sector to liberate us from China. And he wasn't shy about advocating the kinds of constitutional amendments these voters would like to see happen in regards to marriage and abortion:
"People say we don't want to amend the Constitution. Well, it was made to be amended ... I don't want to see people who are less willing to change the Constitution than they are to change the holy word of God."
The general buzz here is that Huckabee will win this afternoon's straw poll, which would be a big boost for his campaign. But far more important are the side meetings James Dobson and other leaders are conducting about the prospect of running a third-party candidate -- possibly Huckabee -- should an undesirable candidate win the nomination.