SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Debbie and David Haak drove 13 hours from Arkansas on Wednesday to frigid Northwest Iowa to boost a longtime family friend — Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Debbie Haak said it was well worth the drive and weather shock — it was 20 degrees during an early morning stop Thursday at the Siouxland Center for Active Generations — as Huckabee began his final push to line up supporters in advance of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
"I love our country, y'all ... (Huckabee's) main goal is to make our country the country it used to be," Haak said to the 35 people present.
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, but noted the campaign dynamic with a slew of new Republican candidates in 2016 is that voters are angry. He has polled in low single digits nationally and in Iowa at a time when Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are dominating. But Huckabee contended he can still surge in Iowa.
"I want you to prove that the Iowa people think for themselves," he told the audience.
Huckabee said policy changes to firm up federal government finances and strengthen the military are needed, but added that a moral rebirth also is vitally necessary. He cited Americans being confused about sexual identity and 4,000 abortions daily taking lives of babies.
"It is all about getting our national soul back," Huckabee said.
Huckabee described how the loss of prayer in public schools has undercut a sense of community. He cited how prayer in his schools growing up in Hope, Arkansas, did not make anyone "warped."
"It wasn't that we were trying to favor one religion over another," he said.
Huckabee spoke for 45 minutes in Sioux City, then moved on to planned stops in Le Mars, Sioux Center, Rock Valley and Sheldon. Huckabee asserted that continuing local events work best to connect with Iowans.
"I don't think you can win (the caucuses) with a short cut," Huckabee said.
Isabel Trobaugh, of Elk Point, S.D., said she was glad Huckabee has competed hard in Iowa.
"Mike Huckabee has listened to the people of (Iowa)," Trobaugh said.