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Handicapping Huckabee And Mccain

WHO Radio, Des Moines

Print has got David Yepsen out here. Radio's got Jan Mickelson, who's got more than twice the listeners of his closest state competition; candidates and their proxies from both parties fight to call into the conservative-minded talk show he's been doing at this station for decades.

Mickelson's a big reason immigration's been so high-intensity in the GOP race this year, pushing the issue on most shows, giving Tom Tancredo and anti-immigration Congressman Steve King many interviews (King even guest-hosted on July 4), and promoting the horror story of the Kilborns, a family from Marshalltown, Iowa whose elderly matriarch was killed in a crash with an illegal immigrant. ("Apparently the driver complained that it was un-Christian of the family to expect her to be deported!" Mickelson huffs.)

Mickelson got all the way here from a first job handling pig carcasses inside a freezer. There's still a modesty to the operation you won't find at, I suspect, Rush's EIB Network: Dropping by the WHO building unannounced, I'm told to just march right into Mickelson's studio while he's on air, and only after I question whether this would be OK am I sent to the producer instead. Mickelson is low-key in big grandfather glasses and a sort of felt-textured shirt with suede elbows, and the main decoration inside the plain office building is a statue of a soybean in the foyer.

Mickelson's take on the GOP race:

-- For what it's worth, he and various conservatives who came into his show are skeptics of the supposed McCain bounce -- they haven't seen it on the ground or from callers. "McCain mooned us here [in 2000]," says Mickelson. "He just went [makes a farting noise and waves his hand by his rear]. Everybody remembers that."

-- He thinks Huckabee's support isn't likely to dwindle much further than it has. While he personally thought it was lame, he hasn't talked about Huckabee's dramatic ad meltdown with a single caller. "It's just noise."

I'm inclined to agree with him on Huckabee. Looking at the Republican field, it's tough to imagine too many people still being decided between Romney and Huckabee; they're just so different, much more so than Hillary and Obama. Romney's support is more solid than Huckabee's, because he's been in the state longer and has a less erratic performance. The people who could take wind out of Huck's sails are McCain and Thompson. If you buy Mickelson's view on McCain's chances, he won't hurt Huck much, and the likelihood of a last-minute Thompson boom ... well, you can read about that here

Photo: L.A. Times

-- Eve Fairbanks