Another poll is out today, showing Mike Huckabee inching up on Mitt Romney among Republicans in an early voting state. This time, it’s Florida, the site of Wednesday’s GOP debate, which will vote on Jan. 29. It’s but a single data point — Huckabee 17 percent, Romney 12 percent — but it comes on the heels of consistent Huckabee gains on Romney in the national and Iowa polls. It’s not yet a crisis for Romney, who still holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire, but if these trends continue it surely will become one.
On Monday, in a media conference call with reporters, USA Today’s Susan Page asked Huckabee what he thought of Romney’s relative decline in several polls. The exchange is telling for two reasons: It displays the storytelling talents of Huckabee, the Baptist pastor, and it lays out in vibrant colors the worst fear of the big-spending Romney campaign.
PAGE: Given all the time and money he [Romney] has invested in his plan to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, why do you think his relative position is declining?
HUCKABEE: You know, Susan, there is an old story about a guy who opened a dog food company and he spent a lot of money, a lot of money. He got the best food nutritionist. He hired the best marketing people. He hired the best sales force that has ever been assembled. He was going to launch this dog food that was going to just take the market away. And after a couple of months, their sales were flat, things were declining, they couldn’t figure it out. So he called all his people together, and he said, “Folks, we’ve got to figure this out. Who’s got the best formula that’s ever been scientifically developed?”
They said, “Well, we do, sir.” And he said, “Well who’s got the most ingenious marketing plan that has ever been come up with?” They said, “Well, we do, sir.” And he said, “Who has the greatest logistical process of the distribution of the product?” They said, “Well, we do sir.” And he said, “Who has the best labeling?” “Well, we do sir.” “Well, if we’ve got all this stuff, then tell me. How come it is that we are not doing better out there in the market?” There was a long silence. And then finally somebody in the back of the room said, “Because the dogs won’t eat the darn stuff, sir.”
And, Susan, I think the issue is that you can hire all the consultants in the world. You can spend a lot of money. You can market. You can buy more television, so much so that you own the top 500 feet of every television tower in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. But the voters ultimately have to believe that the product is what they want. And it’s obvious that there is a limit on how much that you can market and how much has to just really come from people’s commitments to believe that it’s the real deal.