This presidential race, there are two exceptions: Oprah Winfrey, and Chuck Norris.
Traveling throughout New Hampshire with Norris, Mike Huckabee often quips to packed houses that the martial arts star is the real reason they are all there.
At an event in Windham, N.H. today, Norris took the stage and not only outlined the story of how he came to be partnered with Huckabee, but used the event to explain the origin and success of his Kick Start program, which teaches youth the martial arts.
Then he made the Huckabee populist pitch, with a few ideas of his own.
He took on Wall Street and corporate America, especially those companies that “pay no taxes” on corporate jets and yachts, as a way of promoting Huckabee’s proposal to replace payroll taxes with a consumption tax. He even took aim at rich Saudi sheiks who fly into the U.S., go on shopping sprees and fill up their personal jets with goods without paying taxes. Then he took on the nature of campaign finance, especially the ability of candidates to self finance their own campaigns (he didn’t mention Mitt Romney by name).
His proposal: Give each candidate $30 million each for the primary and $50 million for the general election — “No more campaigning and having corporate America subsidize them.”
His wife, Gena, finally came and cued him to mention an upcoming Huckabee fund-raising barbecue at their Texas ranch on Jan. 20, preceded by a “virtual tour” of his home including his 2,000 square foot workout area.
To non-martial arts enthusiasts, this was probably more than you would ever want to know about Chuck Norris, but it was also very charming and flowed right into Huckabee’s populist appeal. In his pitch, Norris was far from the tough guy that the campaign has played to the kitsch-y hilt. He’s actually self-deprecating and even a bit shy, something that he admitted was a problem for him growing up as a teen.
Norris mentioned how Barack Obama proved pundits wrong in drawing on the youth vote. Norris came to endorse Huckabee, in fact, via two teen fans from Oregon who e-mailed him and told him to check him out.
“I thought, ‘If these two teenage people were behind this man, there’s got to be something to it,” Norris told the crowd.
So by campaigning so aggressively with Huckabee in New Hampshire, which is said to not have as great a concentration of evangelicals, perhaps Norris will at least help his candidate draw that vote on the GOP side.
Norris is hardly on Hollywood’s A-list. Heck, he never really graduated beyond B-level action movies. But therein lies the absurdity of it all — and it is strangely effective.
As Huckabee’s campaign manager Chip Saltsman put it to ABC News, in a bit of Chuck hyperbole, “You can’t even estimate the Chuck Norris factor.”