GOP Establishment Warming to Huckabee?

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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Politics 101, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. independent says:

    Well, he’s moving his campaign to the right on spending and foreign policy. Nowadays he talks about “getting rid of the IRS” and market-based solutions, but I have to wonder how far from his record he can campaign?

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    A lot depends on how New Hampshire Republican primary voters respond to Huckabee and his win in Iowa. If they decide he’s scary enough, I agree with you—they’ll turn out for either Romney or McCain in a “Stop Huckabee” move. Note that New Hampshire undoubtedly considers Romney a “more traditional candidate” which is IMO somewhat different from the way the Midwest, South, and West probably see him.

    Unfortunately (in my view), both Romney and Huckabee, each in his own way, represents the next evolutionary stage in the continuum from Bush I to the present. Whether Republicans want to continue that development is what I’ve been characterizing as “death wish” and “survival instinct”.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    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.”

    Color me unconvinced.

    Obama has so far run a competent campaign. Huckabee has tripped over his own feet every two minutes. I strongly suspect either Obama or Hillary would just demolish Huckabee come november.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I strongly suspect either Obama or Hillary would just demolish Huckabee come november.

    I think that any first-tier Democratic candidate would defeat Huckabee in November 2008. I also think that Republicans are pretty likely to arrive at that conclusion, too.

  5. Paul says:

    The quick dismissiveness about Huckabee the preacher sort of reminds me of the early dismissiveness of Reagan the actor. Sure, he seems to know less about Pakistan than any candidate since . . . . hmm, that would be George W Bush, who famously couldn’t even name the leader of Pakistan in an 1999 interview.

  6. Jim Henley says:

    The quick dismissiveness about Huckabee the preacher sort of reminds me of the early dismissiveness of Reagan the actor.

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

  7. floyd says:

    “”Obama has so far run a competent campaign. Huckabee has tripped over his own feet every two minutes.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    How much of this is so, and how much of it only the result of one being the media’s “darling”, and the other the media’s “demon”?

  8. Tlaloc says:

    How much of this is so, and how much of it only the result of one being the media’s “darling”, and the other the media’s “demon”?

    Funny, on Redstate they swear that Huckabee has been given a pass, even been boosted, by the media as a conservative foil.

    I need a scorecard these days to keep up with everything the media is accused of doing.

    The quick dismissiveness about Huckabee the preacher sort of reminds me of the early dismissiveness of Reagan the actor.

    That line of reasoning is disconcerting to me, therefor I disregard it out of hand.
    (which is my way of saying you may have a good point, damn it.)

  9. I find a small but growing part of me wants Huckabee to win, if only because it means I’ll be able to wash my hands of the Republican Party without the slightest tinge of guilt.

  10. just me says:

    Well this republican remains unconvinced that Huckabee is a good choice.

    I am not convinced any of the GOP candidates are good choices, but Huckabee feels more like an old fashioned southern democrat than a republican.

    He does appear to be a nice guy-but I don’t want to elect a “nice” guy to the white house. I want to elect a competent one that stands for conservatism somewhere other than social conservatism.

  11. Darcy Kleene says:

    Kristol has been so very wrong, in a very public manner, on so many issues over the past ten years that anything he now says automatically must be rejected.

    Why on earth would you choose to continue to respond to him as if he has credible arguments? He was wrong, is wrong, and will be wrong, from this time forth and forevermore. Amen.

  12. Barry says:

    “I find a small but growing part of me wants Huckabee to win, if only because it means I’ll be able to wash my hands of the Republican Party without the slightest tinge of guilt.”

    Posted by Stormy Dragon

    This reminds me of a comment by Von on Obsidian Wings, where he threatened to flee to Canada if Clinton or Obama became president (I can’t recall which).

    People rightly mocked him, since he had managed to refrain from fleeing under years of Bush.

  13. Well, I haven’t voted for a Republican at the federal level since 2002. Right now I’m thinking of just calling it quits and reregistering as an independent since I’m tried of being associated with them. If Huckabee wins, this choice becomes very easy for me.