The Republican presidential race took a physical turn on Tuesday, when a Mike Huckabee staffer physically blocked Texas Senator Ted Cruz from getting on stage with law-defying Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis at her release party. By preventing Cruz from accessing the stage, the aide ensured that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee would be the only GOP presidential candidate to share the spotlight with Kim Davis.
In their zeal to win over the bigot vote, the Huckabee campaign is doing their best to shut out other Republicans, so that anti-gay voters can recognize that Huckabee should be their first choice. Ted Cruz is also trying to court homophobic voters, but his inability to out muscle a Huckabee campaign aide, left poor Ted on the sidelines. Cruz became a mere spectator at the spectacle. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee hogged all of the cross-waving glory, taking center stage with the self-righteous scofflaw clerk.
Campaign politics has always been a ruthless enterprise. Nevertheless, there is something unseemly about watching candidates from one of America’s major political parties jostle to position themselves beside a hateful county clerk who refuses to do her job, because she believes God wants her to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
While Huckabee won this round of the GOP slugfest, it isn’t clear whether appearing on stage with Kim Davis will help or hinder him long term. Yes, evangelical GOP voters in Iowa will probably be impressed with Huckabee’s phony martyrdom and his plea:
If you have to put someone in jail, let me go.
However, secular Republicans in New Hampshire are likely to be less impressed. More importantly, general election voters who don’t think discriminating against gay people should be the nation’s top priority, are going to be turned off by Huckabee’s contrived little hate rally. Ted Cruz may have been shut out from appearing on stage, but at least he can take solace that photos of him holding up Kim Davis’ arm in a triumphant tribute to anti-gay bigotry never happened. As for Mike Huckabee, the image of him and Kim Davis hand in hand could haunt him for months, maybe even years to come.