When Mike Huckabee is in Iowa, Scott Sales is his barber. And when Mike Huckabee visited Scott Sales four days before the Iowa caucus, a media circus ensued. Sales owns the Executive Forum Barber Shop in downtown Des Moines. It’s a small shop, with just three old-fashioned chairs, and a shoe-shine stand out front. A representative from Huckabee’s presidential campaign called Sales this morning to ask if the press could come to attend the former Arkansas Governor’s scheduled appointment. Sales didn’t think twice about the request, he told me. He’d cut Huckabee’s hair before, and the event hadn’t caused much fuss.
By the time I arrived on the scene, dozens of reporters from Newsweek, CNN, and the New York Times were already packed into the small store. One young woman was grilling Sales on his caucus plans, who he planned to vote for, and if he changed the price of his haircuts for presidential candidates. There was a flurry of activity as Huckabee walked into the room: cameras snapped, pens scratched, and hands shook.
Once Huckabee was in the barber’s chair, the reporters put him on the hot seat. His campaign had just pulled the plug on an advertisement attacking former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Huckabee’s primary competition in Iowa. According to Foon Rhee of the Boston Globe, the ad accused Romney of “raising taxes, failing to OK a single execution of a death-row inmate, and signing a healthcare plan that subsidizes the cost of elective abortions.” Huckabee defended his decision to pull the ad, saying that the people of Iowa don’t like negative campaigning. Though Huckabee’s aides tried to cut off the questioning multiple times, he continued to fire off jokes and answer questions.
Reporters were hanging from the rafters as they asked about Romney, Iowa, and the haircut. Someone broke a trash can while trying to get a better view of the action. A display case of mini-football helmets was knocked over, and parts of the ceiling were knocked out. A reporter even jostled Sales while he was shaving Huckabee’s face with an old-fashioned, straight razor, almost slicing the candidate’s throat.
Embarrassed by the conduct of my fellow members of the media, and wanting to experience the cold slice of presidential clipping shears, I decided to ask Sales for a cut. He was considerably more relaxed when I sat down in his chair. We talked politics, football, and about the relative merits of Iowa and Minnesota. He told me that he agreed with Huckabee’s decision to pull the ad. He didn’t like negative campaigning either. The one thing he didn’t appreciate though, were the reporters who trashed his store.
For all the posts from the Iowa Caucuses, read the Utne Politics blog.