GOP Establishment Warming to Huckabee?
Neoconservative stalwart Bill Kristol uses his new NYT forum to make the case that, not only could Republicans live with Mike Huckabee as their nominee, he “could he be our strongest nominee.”
After the last two elections, featuring the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry, Americans — even Republicans! — are ready for a likable regular guy. Huckabee seems to be that. He came up from modest origins. He served as governor of Arkansas for more than a decade. He fought a successful battle against being overweight.
[M]any conservatives have serious doubts about Huckabee’s positions, especially on foreign policy, and his record, particularly on taxes. The conservative establishment is strikingly hostile to Huckabee — for both good and bad reasons. But voters seem to be enjoying making up their own minds this year. And Huckabee is a talented politician.
His campaigning in New Hampshire has been impressive. At a Friday night event at New England College in Henniker, he played bass with a local rock band, Mama Kicks. One secular New Hampshire Republican’s reaction: “Gee, he’s not some kind of crazy Christian. He’s an ordinary American.”
In general, here in New Hampshire he’s emphasized social issues far less than in Iowa (though he doesn’t waffle when asked about them). Instead he’s stressed conservative economic themes, seamlessly (if somewhat inconsistently) weaving together a pitch for limited government with a message that government needs to do more to address the concerns of the struggling middle class. This latter point seems to be resonating, as headlines in local papers announce an increase in the national unemployment rate amid speculation about a coming recession.
Jim Henley believes Kristol’s piece is a harbinger of things to come: “If Huckabee continues to do well, you’ll see the Huckster on the one side and the so-called ‘money-cons’ and the foreign-policy hawks on the other coming to mutual understandings, not fissuring.” Mark Kleiman agrees, figuring that there are no limits to “just how low the Republican politician-lobbyist-and-pundit class will go to keep a Democrat out of the White House” and that, if it comes to it, they’ll eventually “treat Huckabee as a serious and potentially acceptable candidate rather than as the Mayberry Mullah.”
Dan Larison finds the prospect “terrifying” but believes “Huckabee counteracts everything Obama has to offer, such as it is, while outmatching him in a number of ways.”
Ron Beasley agrees with Kristol’s conclusion but nonetheless thinks he’s a “clueless” idiot who’s “always wrong.”
People are not voting for Huckabee because he’s a likable guy they are voting for him because they are scared. Not of the Islamo terrorists but they are afraid of losing their jobs, their house and their medical insurance. […] They don’t trust the leaders in government or the leaders in business to look out for them. And we are not just talking about the working poor – there are families with six figure incomes that have the same fears.
That strikes me right, so far as it goes. But Huckabee actually has a multifaceted constituency. He’s bringing in the most fervent evangelicals, the lower middle class, and those who don’t trust elites. Henry Olson argues, persuasively that he’s assembling a European-style “Christian Democratic party.”
I do think that most Republicans will, if he gets the nomination (which I don’t think will happen) and it comes down to a choice between him and Hillary Clinton, pull the lever for Huckabee. But it’s a long, long way to the nomination and Huckabee’s swimming against the tide. Jules Crittenden:
Kristol paints it all in a rosy light and suggests there’s an electability factor that overcomes a lot of things he mentions in passing or not at all, primarily the foreign policy myopia, taxes, soft on born-again crime, pro-illegration stance, weird family issues, etc. But he’s likeable. It may well be that a lot of people on the right who aren’t crazy about him will have to warm up to him before this is over, but it’s early in the primary season.
This is why I continue to think that the GOP, starting tomorrow in New Hampshire, will rally around a more traditional candidate.
Photo: Liberal College Kid via Google Images.