Mike Huckabee needs Iowa on his side. And he's not beyond doing a little begging to make sure he takes the state.
Speaking to a crowd Thursday at the Iowa State Fair, Huckabee closed his remarks with a pointed message to his supporters: that they must brave Iowa's frigid February temperatures and come out to vote for him at the caucuses next winter.
"I don't care how cold it is that night, please go vote for me," he said. "And if for some crazy reason you are not gonna vote for me in the caucuses, for God's sakes stay home that night where it's warm and do not leave your home."
Huckabee's appeal was as cheeky as it was honest. In the early days of the 2008 contest, it was the overwhelming support of Iowa's social conservative voters that catapulted him, if only temporarily, to the front of the presidential pack: After placing second in the 2007 straw poll, the former Arkansas governor "rode a wave of evangelical fervor to victory" in the caucuses the following year.
And though Huckabee no doubt hopes he can replicate that same enthusiasm this time around, he faces much more competition on the ultraconservative front. Dr. Ben Carson, former Sen. Rick Santorum (who won the 2012 Iowa caucuses), and Gov. Bobby Jindal could split any Huckabee "fervor" left over from 2008. He'll also have to seize conservative support without the profile-raising help of the Iowa Straw Poll, which he backed out of three months ago saying it would "weaken conservative candidates" in the race. (The poll has since been canceled.)
Though his speech Thursday mostly focused on voters' economic concerns, it was peppered with references to morality, an apparent appeal to those Christian conservatives he'll need come wintertime. Huckabee called America's "strong moral fiber" the "steering mechanism" of the country. And he veered into typical Huckabee rhetorical territory when addressing abortion, suggesting that Americans cannot expect to invoke "God's blessing" on the country if abortion continues.
As he has in recent weeks on the trail, he zeroed in on Planned Parenthood, calling for it to be entirely shut down.
"Let's not just end funding for this nightmare," Huckabee said, referencing the women's health organization that provides abortion services. "Let's end the nightmare and make it so that when we ask God to bless us, He can look down from heaven and say, 'I will.'"
He said Americans must "start acting like a civilized people" and not "apologize for who we are as a country." It's a country whose little state of Iowa, Huckabee hopes, has his brand of morality at its core.