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Hey, Chuck. Blog this!

January 1, 2008 | 11:44 pm

Washington, D.C., is so 2007. The center of the American political universe these days is the Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines, as in Iowa caucus country.

There, on this first day of the new year, newly-minted GOP front-runner Mike Huckabee, accompanied by his no-nonsense fan-in-chief, Chuck Norris, convened a 2008 version of a press conference, only it was only for bloggers, a roomful of obedient Huckabee blogger boosters.

Huckabee opened by thanking them for paying attention to his once-obscure campaign when no one else would. And then he made a political promise: He will hold a blogger dance in the East Room of the White House when he is elected president. So put that down on your laptop calendar.

Then, it was the turn of blogger Dave Davidson of to....

fire a particularly tough question: “How can we best help the campaign?”

Huckabee responded by urging that bloggers respond to any political attacks on him by “disseminating the truth" and setting the record straight. Norris, who looked in fine enough shape to knock any political attackers into an alternate universe, explained that he personally believes in positive campaigns. He then proceeded to round-house kick rival Republican Mitt Romney by citing his numerous “flip-flops” in detail.

Pressing ahead, Davidson elicited from Norris his plan to hold a major fundraiser for Huckabee at the actor's 700-acre Texas ranch on Jan. 20. As described by Norris, the event will be a “virtual” barbeque. For $10, Hucka-fans will be able to click on the website and get a tour of the Norris ranch. “I could show them the 2,000-square-foot gymnasium,” Norris said. Also, he’d show them his rec room, which, he noted, also is 2,000 square feet.

“If the bloggers would get behind this," Norris suggested, "we could make this a very, very successful event.”  There were no contradictions, virtual or otherwise. Perhaps, Norris even said, Huckabee’s rock band would perform.

Would the bloggers support this? Norris asked. He received a round of enthusiastic applause.

Davidson then offered a suggestion of his own: all the people attending the virtual barbeque could have actual barbeques of their own at their real homes. It could be the biggest barbeque ever, he noted.

After the blog-conference ended, Norris left through a rear door and accidentally came into a room that The Times temporary Iowa news bureau occupies. Old-fashioned print reporters, including The Times' Dan Morain, seized the opportunity to ask a few questions of their own.

Norris said the fundraising goal is to have at least 200 people attend the actual feed, each paying $1,000. And with people elsewhere paying $10 to click on the site to take the virtual tour, Norris hopes to help Huckabee raise $10 million. Let's see, that means 980,000 online virtual visitors -- and no food.

Meanwhile, newly-named Huckadvisor Ed Rollins held court nearby and said the former governor's campaign does not pay any bloggers. Presumably, they get virtual appreciation.

-- Andrew Malcolm