On the eve of the Iowa Caucuses, Mike Huckabee decided to leave the state to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, taped in Burbank, California. The political press questioned this move in derisive chorus, finishing their transition from favorable to Huckabee to outrightly hostile in near-record time. Huckabee gets the last laugh, though, as he turned in the best performance of any candidate yet on the late night talk shows.
The former Arkansas Governor was relaxed and funny in the soft banter with Leno, which was very well received by the studio (and, presumably, the home) audience. The political portion of the interview was very brief, to Leno's credit - Letterman often tries to assume the persona of a serious reporter when questioning candidates, and comes off looking ridiculous - but Huckabee was cheered for embracing bipartisanship, and for his stock remark that an American entrepreneur trying to bring a new product or idea to market faces more competition from his own government than from business rivals (which he uses to defend the Flat Tax, when in fact it applies more directly to regulatory excess than the income tax system).
Mike Huckabee certainly didn't hurt his chances with this appearance. Polls show that nearly half of the likely Iowa caucus attendees say they could change their minds, and "likability" has been a key ingredient for Americans deciding on a President (as evidenced in 1952, 1960, 1980, and 2000). He may not have been able to win many votes on policy - there being little opportunity in the setting - but he certainly may have been able to convince potential caucus-goers to discount the attacks against him.
Huckabee's campaign has been a bit frazzled by the scrutiny recently, and he needed a good performance tonight. He delivered.