Huckabee's serious side (and poll numbers)

Chuck Norris is nowhere to be seen in Mike Huckabee's new ad, which began airing this week in Iowa. It looks like the former Arkansas governor made good on his promise to air only "really serious" ads from now on.

The new ad, called "Believe," touts Huckabee's Christian credentials. It opens with a thoughtful-looking Huckabee repeating something he often says on the campaign trail: "Faith doesn't just influence me. It really defines me." It goes on to show clips of Huckabee at last month's Values Voters Summit, where he placed a close second behind Mitt Romney in a straw poll of mostly conservative Christian voters. Huckabee also squeezes a line about abortion into the ad: "I believe life begins at conception."

Polls show Huckabee neck-and-neck with Romney in Iowa. They also suggest that much of Huckabee's support there comes from evangelicals.

But that doesn't mean Norris is absent from Huckabee's campaign these days. In fact, the campaign has started a fundraising push called the Huckabee Rangers. A video posted yesterday asks supporters whether they are "Huckabee Rangers" while the theme song from Walker, Texas Ranger plays in the background. Shots of Norris riding a horse, jumping onto the hood of a car and standing with his trench coat billowing in the breeze are interspersed with clips of Huckabee typing on his laptop, campaigning with a woman dressed in an apple costume and lifting weights in what looks like a home gym. Each Ranger must agree to raise at least $100.

In other Huckabee news, Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late televangelist and president of his father's Liberty University, endorsed Huckabee today. The endorsement came a day after Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, announced the formation of a 30-member Faith and Family Values Coalition made up of Christian leaders.

Huckabee spoke today at the weekly convocation service at Liberty University, a school of 20,000 students in Virginia. An hour and a half later, we had a press release announcing Falwell's endorsement. The release did not include a statement from Falwell. The only quote was from Huckabee: "I knew Jerry's dad for more than 30 years and have admired the long tradition of Liberty University and the legacy for creating 'Champions for Christ' " Huckabee said. "Dr. Falwell's vision of helping students to start with nothing to believe they can change the world is exactly what our campaign is about."

- Melanie Asmar