Ames, Iowa

What can you say? When I looked in on Mike Huckabee in Iowa this summer, he was at single digits in the polls and, even on his best days, only merited the odd paragraph of MSM coverage. Now, of course, there are literally dozens of reporters hanging on his every word. (See photos below.)

A couple interesting tidbits from today:

1.) Asked about Romney's attacks at a press avail in the parking lot of a West Des Moines shopping mall, Huck waxed magnanimous. Sort of. "You need to look [at it] with some sense of sympathy," he said. "Here's a guy who's outspent me 20 to 1. Now that's a lot of money. And he's behind. And I'm sure it's disappointing, and I'm sure there's a lot of internal turmoil in his campaign. And I understand that. But I think all of us ought to tell people what you're for, not what's wrong with the other candidates."

2.) At an event this evening here in Ames, Huckabee's campaign chairman, Bob Vander Plaats, urged the crowd to welcome Huck with an enthusiastic "Merry Christmas"--an allusion to the Huckabee ad that's stirred so much controversy. When they did, Huckabee responded: "You guys are so easily led." I'm not sure if the crowd got it, but it sounded like a knowing reference to that infamous Washington Post article I mentioned earlier today.

3.) Speaking of the war against the war on Christmas, Huckabee seems to have found a shrewd way of capitalizing on that flare-up. (Probably necessary to watch the Christmas ad if you haven't already.) "If I had used the name of Jesus Christ in vain, and blurted it out as profanity, no one would be talking about it," he says. "Nobody. It would simply get ignored and accepted as the way we talk these days. But because I invoked his name on his own birthday, to say to America, 'Happy birthday, merry Christmas,' somehow everybody sees in it something that isn't even there. Have we so lost our national soul? Have we become so coarse that even the attempt to bring some civility to the political arena is met with nothing more than scorn, disdain, and disbelief?" This brought as many head-nods and murmurs of approval as I've seen on the campaign trail this year.

4.) Huckabee seems to be taking Ross Douthat's advice to heart. You hear a lot more class talk from the governor these days--what, in another era, might have been called people-versus-the-powerful rhetoric. He made multiple mentions of that Wall Street-Washington axis that's trying to derail his campaign.

On to the photos:

Here's the crush of reporters and cameramen around Huckabee at that West Des Moines press conference:

And here's Huckabee at an event a couple hours later in Ames, surrounded by autograph and picture-seekers. This is what front-runner-dom looks like, I guess.

--Noam Scheiber