The Chuck Norris Show

“I’m very aware that most of you came to see Chuck,” Mike Huckabee told a crowd last week in Rochester, N.H. A group of boys who did not appear to be of voting age confirmed this: “We love you, Chuck!”

Back when Huckabee first announced that Norris would be doing some fund raising for him, America laughed. At, not with. If anything, Norris’ involvement confirmed Huckabee’s candidacy as a fringy three-ring circus. Then Norris appeared in a TV spot . Then he started traveling with Huckabee. Then, when Huckabee won Iowa, there was Norris, peering over the governor’s shoulder during his victory speech.

But now Norris has become a defining face in Mike Huckabee’s campaign, so much that today’s announcement —”Mike Huckabee’s Band To Play and Martial Artists to Join Forces During Jan. 20th Online Texas Fundraiser Hosted by Chuck Norris”—feels utterly ordinary. Just another barbecue/political fund-raiser/rock concert/ninja demonstration.

Watching Norris speak in New Hampshire, I wanted to pinch myself. I am actually writing down words coming out of Chuck Norris’ mouth. It feels silly until you realize that what he says is no sillier than the ideas expressed by Huckabee’s other endorsers. (One possible exception: Norris’ anecdote about throwing an American soldier in Iraq into a sleeper hold and accidentally suffocating him.) Norris tries not to overshadow Huckabee, but he can’t resist talking about the time he sky-dived with George Bush Sr. Or the several times he visited Iraq. When Norris is working the crowd, it’s easy to forget that Huckabee is the main act.

Once you consider that Jesse “the Body” Ventura got elected governor of Minnesota and Arnold Schwarzenegger is being credited as a transformational figure in the Republican party, it’s not a leap to imagine Norris seeking—and holding—elected office. He’s ex-Air Force. He served in South Korea between ’58 and ‘62, where he became a black belt in Tang Soo Do . He founded a program for at-risk children. He has become a semiregular Fox News commentator, where his conservative ideas are taken as seriously as anyone’s. Elections have been won with a lot less.