Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Rise (and possible fall) of Mike Huckabee

1:00 Update: And just to show you how fast things can change in politics, no sooner than I post this story commenting about the rise of Mike Huckabee did stories come out which may seriously damage his campaign. Drudge has a screaming headline "HUCKABEE WANTED TO ISOLATE AIDS PATIENTS" and a has a story about how Huckabee once called homosexuality "sinful" and how he opposed spending additional federal funds on HIV/AIDS research in the 1990s. Writing that "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague" is not going to endear yourself to voters, even if it is a quote from 15-years-ago. Just goes to show, in politics, you never know where the next story is going to come from. It will be interesting to see how Huckabee responds to these stories. The AP reports that Huckabee now wants to increase HIV/AIDS research funding, but it was common knowledge at the time Huckabee's comments were made that HIV could not be transfered by causal contact, so the isolation line could prove damaging. We're going to see just how strong of a campaign and politician Huckabee is in reacting to this news.

Indirectly, if this story becomes a big national firestorm, which it could, it may be bad news for Barack Obama, who was hoping to have a news-cycle all to himself this weekend for the Oprah Winfrey campaign stops. Something tells me that might get overshadowed a bit should the Huckabee story become front-page news. Now back to your regularly scheduled post, discussing the "rise" of Mike Huckabee, which may (or may not) be a moot point in a few days.

While Oprah Winfrey heads out to Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire to stump for Barack Obama, and Obama starts to take a solid lead in Iowa and even in South Carolina, the story of the 2008 Presidential Campaign so far is the rise of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The man from Hope, Arkansas (sound familiar? It's the hometown of another former Arkansas Governor and two-term President, Bill Clinton) who has little organization and political machinery, and even less money, is lapping the Republican field. A few weeks back, when the Huckabee surge started registering in Iowa polls, most pundits thought it was bad news for Mitt Romey (who, like Obama, really needs to win Iowa to give himself a shot at the nomination) and great news for Rudy Giuliani, who needed to somehow stop Romney's momentum in Iowa and New Hampshire and Michigan, so there would be no front-runner headed into Super Tuesday, where Giuliani could clean up in New York, Florida, and the other big states, even if he had been shut out until that point. Now, it looks like not only will Huckabee storm past Romney in Iowa, he's going to swallow up Giuliani too, and every other Republican candidate.

New polls are just staggering. Newswek, which had Huckabee at 6% just two months ago in Iowa, now has him at 39%, an incredible and mind-boggling 22-points ahead of Romney. 22, that'd worth reading again. Even if that poll shows an exaggerated lead (and most polls don't show nearly that disparity) most show him up 5 points or so. Rasmussen now has Huckabee leading in Michigan (where Romney's father was a popular Governor), and Strategic Vision has him up in South Carolina (the best place to get all these polls, by the way, is Real Clear Politics, an amazing website for political junkies like myself).

Huckbee's surge is easily explainable too (and, no, I don't believe that God has anything to do with it, though that's the explanation Huckabee is going with). Evangelical Christians and other religious and socially conservative voters in the Republican Party have desperately wanted to find their candidate. Romney doesn't fit because if his flip-flops on social issues like abortion, and the fact that he's a former Governor of a very liberal state Massachusetts (and perhaps his Mormon faith has something to do with it as well, even though it shouldn't.) Rudy is disqualified for many of the same reasons, and has personal baggage as well (never good to have newspaper stories come out about how New York Police were providing protection to your mistress, even if she is your now-wife). John McCain alienated a lot of conservatives with his stance on immigration, and Fred Thompson, who was supposed to be the savior, is still half-asleep. That leaves Huckabee, a very socially conservative (though, his stance on taxes has been questioned), religious (he's a former Baptist Minister), very likable, very down-to-earth, guy. And all of those voters, looking for a candidate, have helped Huckabee rise to the front of the pack of the Republicans.

He may not have the money to win, but if he wins in Iowa, he won't need it. He'll get all the free media he needs from the national press, and should he then win South Carolina, and Michigan, the momentum is going to be very hard to stop. And while I don't agree with all of his policies (or many of them I suppose) I think Huckabee's candidacy and rise is great for America. He's showing that despite the tens of millions (or, now, make that hundreds of millions) of dollars spent on political campaigns every cycle, if you have a message that the voters want to hear, and you are politically savvy enough to harness that, you can become President without raising Clinton or Obama-esque money. The nomination isn't always for "sale," the New York Yankees, despite out-spending everyone else 2-1 don't always win, and sometimes, a little can go a long way when the electorate is hungry for a particular breed of candidate.

Can Huckabee win a general election? He'll have more money, but his overly religious tones may turn off middle-of-the-road voters, and despite his likable demeanor, it won't change his questionable record on tax increases, and it won't give him any foreign policy experience. While people question Barack Obama's experience, at least he's been a United States Senator and has served on the Foreign Relations Committee and dealt directly with national security issues. Huckabee has zero foreign policy experience (I'm sorry, negotiating trade deals for Arkansas doesn't count). If Obama wins the nomination, the Republicans won't be able to attack him for his inexperience if Huckabee is their nominee, and that's going to be a big problem. But if Huckabee runs against Clinton, watch-out. There is no starker contrast to the calculating, sometimes-shrill, very polarizing Clinton than the free-wheeling, genial, everyman Huackbee. He may be the perfect antidote to a Clinton candidacy.

Add To: Digg! Reddit Del.Icio.Us Stumble



© New Blogger Templates | Webtalks