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Since being chosen as Sen. John McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has taken some heat for her rapid rise from small-town mayor to a national election. So proponents have sought to amplify her achievements to date, which is what led former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to say this at the Republican National Convention:
"She got more votes running for the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States," Huckabee said Sept. 3, 2008. He made the same remark earlier that day to Florida Republicans at the Airport Marriott in Bloomington, Minn.
Biden dropped out of the presidential race in January, after an unimpressive finish in the Jan. 3 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Because of the nature of the caucus process, which involves people gathering and regathering in groups in high school gyms and living rooms across the state to signal their candidate preferences, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a fix on how many Iowans supported Biden. According to a Jan. 4 article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Associated Press calculated "state delegate equivalent numbers" that showed Biden got perhaps 2,329 votes across the state. CNN reported essentially the same number, 2,328.
It's not clear whether Huckabee was referring to Palin's 1996 election, or her re-election in 1999 — so let's use both numbers. Palin got 651 votes in Wasilla's 1996 election. She did a little better in her 1999 re-election bid, picking up 909 votes. According to Wasilla's deputy clerk, Jamie Newman, the city population now stands at 7,025.
Although the precise Iowa tally isn't available, Biden's support as reported by AP and CNN exceeds Palin's 1,560-vote combined total. And it seems likely, based on those projections, that at least 910 actual Iowans supported him, which would mean that as an active candidate, Biden exceeded Palin's single most successful mayoral race.
But Biden kept picking up votes even after he dropped his presidential bid. Biden got 638 votes in New Hampshire's Jan. 8 primary. On Super Tuesday in February, he got 3,788 primary votes in Barack Obama's home state of Illinois, and 4,321 primary votes in Hillary Rodham Clinton's home state of New York.
If Huckabee is going to compare a small-town mayoral election to a national presidential race, then it's only fair to look beyond the single, hard-to-quantify caucus for which Biden was an active candidate. Iowa aside, his combined 8,109-vote total in Obama's and Clinton's home state primaries alone is bigger than Wasilla's entire population. Pants on Fire is our ruling.
Wasilla, Alaska, 1999 mayoral election results, accessed Sept. 3, 2008
E-mail exchange with Wasilla deputy clerk Jamie Newman, Sept. 3, 2008
CNN.com, Iowa Democratic Caucus results, accessed Sept. 3, 2008
Cedar Rapids Gazette, "Iowa Democratic Caucus Results," Jan. 4, 2008
State of New Hampshire, Democratic primary results, accessed Sept. 3, 2008
State of New York Democratic primary results, accessed Sept. 3, 2008
State of Illinois, Democratic primary results, accessed Sept. 3, 2008
St. Petersburg Times, Huckabee's Sept. 3 remarks to Florida Republicans, accessed Sept. 3, 2008
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