SAD

01.31.16 1:48 PM ET

The Sorry State of Huckabee & Santorum

They both have Iowa caucus wins, yet the only feeling voters seem to manage for these two is apathy.

Rick Santorum was unhappy. 

While other candidates have managed to draw crowds of hundreds and even tens of thousands this cycle, Santorum arrived at Second Street Emporium, a dimly lit restaurant and bar in Webster City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon, to find that fewer than 50 people had come to see his town hall. 

Making matters worse, the majority of them weren’t Iowa voters, but high school students who’d been bussed in from Cincinnati. They couldn’t even vote in the caucus on Monday. 

“This is actually more than I expected,” Bob Algard, his field director in the Northwest part of the state, told me. He nodded at the crowd. “So this is pretty good.” 

But Santorum, dressed in his signature sweater vest, was finding it hard to stay positive. His speech began optimistically enough—“things are gonna go surprisingly well for us on Monday!”—but he soon dropped the act. 

“People always criticize Iowa because you put forth someone—myself and Mike Huckabee—who didn’t win the nomination,” he said, “but they don’t ask the second question: did the person who won the nomination win the election?” 

He paused for a second and then answered his own question with a dramatic, “No!” 

“So maybe,” he added, “they should’ve listened to Iowa instead of listening to New Hampshire! I think Iowa better reflects the values of this country, frankly, than New Hampshire does.” 

In 2008, Huckabee won the Iowa caucus. In 2012, Santorum did. This time around, both men are nonentities. Huckabee polls at 2.5 percent on average. Santorum commands just 1 percent. 

It’s hard to say what’s changed since the last cycle, except everything. Santorum, in his remarks, seemed bewildered by this frightening new world. 

He is unable to comprehend how people could go from supporting someone like himself—a passive aggressive Catholic with enough kids to form a basketball team and some hours clocked in the U.S. Senate—to supporting a reality TV star the color of a clementine, or someone who boasts that their biggest accomplishment in Washington is the fact that everyone in Washington has learned to hate him in just a handful of years. 

“Standing up for principles you believe in and have for 25 years, well, that doesn’t make you newsworthy!” he shouted. “But! If you call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, you can get on O’Reilly!” 

For all his supposed disgust with Trump, Santorum did appear with him—and Huckabee—at his Drake University rally on Thursday, but he seemed to have forgotten that Saturday morning. He called the campaign “the Celebrity Apprentice” and “Presidential Apprentice.” He asked the crowd to help him “set things straight.” 

Then his tone changed from angry to pleading.

“Here’s what I would suggest: that past is prologue,” he said. There is, according to him, “one person” running who has a history of going to Washington and passing conservative laws (his name rhymes with Shmick Shmamshmorum) and “look, the people of Iowa, four years ago, made that conclusion. So my feeling is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” 

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason

A few hours later, about 60 miles South in Johnston, a bullet casing pegged my ribs. Then another hit my foot. 

They came from Huckabee. 

He was standing two feet away and pummeling the heart of a target—mostly its left side—with firepower from a handgun. 

Rather than complain about his predicament, Huckabee channeled his anger in a different way: using weapons to get as much attention as possible before Monday. 

A modest scrum of a little over a dozen reporters and photographers looked on as he shot, all of us wearing pink protective headsets and plastic eyewear. For perspective, there was just one other member of the media covering Santorum’s town hall. 

Huckabee assessed his grouping. “I’m a left eye-dominant shooter,” he said, adding that the last time he shot was “about a a week ago.” 

I asked him if he was picturing anyone’s face in particular as he fired at the target. He answered, “I aim for the heart.” 

Though it certainly felt happier than Santorum’s event, it was difficult to find any actual Huckabee supporters at the gun range. After asking around a bit, a staffer introduced me to David Haake, Huckabee’s friend of 30 years. He drove in from his native Arkansas to support him.

“There’s new faces in the crowd,” he said when I asked about Huckabee’s performance this time around. People may feel, he said, “like ok, you’ve done this once, let’s look at somebody else.”

“But I really believe that come caucus night, when its all said and done, he will do much better than what the polls say. I really believe so.” 

In the distance, Huckabee could be heard firing away. 

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Santorum is a Catholic, not an evangelical.