Fred for real or a stalking horse?

Jen Rubin captures the most important dynamic leading into South Carolina:

Thompson gave himself an opening in South Carolina and gave conservatives a place to jump from the Romney leaking ship. He may have scuffed up Huckabee sufficiently to allow either himself or McCain to win SC. If the latter he ironically would have done his old friend the greatest of favors. (Perhaps one he might remember when it comes to filling VP slots should he get that far.)

Fred Thompson could be in a place to split the South Carolina conservative vote, especially with this nasty anti-Mike Huckabee ad running.

A John McCain win in Michigan, followed by Thompson knee-capping Huckabee in South Carolina could lead to a pretty positive place for McCain.

Huckabee’s support more than Southern Evangelicals?

(cross-posted from Redstate)

I just finished a Mitt Romney townhall in Nashua, NH. He had around 400 people, according to the campaign. I had just come from a similar event in Windham, just down the road, where Mike Huckabee had over 600. The Huckabee event clearly had more energy than the Romney event.

One of the questions in this race is whether Mike Huckabee has a base of support beyond southern Evangelicals. Well, I found an Orthodox Jewish State Rep., Jason Bedrick. Watch Jason explain why he supports Huckabee. He also said that Huckabee could bring Reagan Democrats back to the party. Reagan did it by using cultural values and economic populism to cut into traditionally Democratic ethnic voting blocs … like culturally conservative northeastern Jews. Could Huckabee?

If this energy is indicative, Rudy Giuliani could be in trouble. One reporter described his events to me as "intimate."

Brooks on the future of the GOP, Huckabee, and McCain

Yesterday, we saw Mitt Romney, the candidate of the establishment, the lobbyist class, the interest group class, etc., get rejected by the people of Iowa.  David Brooks understands the broader implications, which I have also talked about:

On the Republican side, my message is: Be not afraid. Some people are going to tell you that Mike Huckabee’s victory last night in Iowa represents a triumph for the creationist crusaders. Wrong. Huckabee won because he tapped into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize.

Meaning:

In that sense, Huckabee’s victory is not a step into the past. It opens up the way for a new coalition.

A conservatism that recognizes stable families as the foundation of economic growth is not hard to imagine. A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

What does the establishment do now?

So the race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike.

McCain has touted his newspaper endorsements. Romney’s campaign have attributed this to liberal media bias. But when I see conservative papers like the Boston Herald, Union Leader, and Detroit News go one way, I wonder if the establishment is getting ready to go with a new horse. The Victor Davis Hanson piece made me think this again.

A view on Iowa from New Hampshire

Cross-post from Redstate. I am posting there primarily, but I will try to cross-post here more.

Mike Huckabee’s stunning victory in Iowa will have a number of consequences in New Hampshire, where I am now. Last night John McCain flew from Iowa to New Hampshire for his caucus-watching party. At the same time, Rudy Giuliani left New Hampshire before the caucuses even began. It is not clear to me that he is coming back to New Hampshire.

Until a poll shows otherwise, this is still a John McCain versus Mitt Romney fight at the top, just like Iowa was a Romney versus Huckabee fight. Iowa’s results seem to help McCain and hurt Romney in NH. At the same time, it endangers Rudy.

Mitt Romney took a hit. Look at the opening paragraph of the AP story:

Republican Mitt Romney failed Thursday to pick up the first of two back-to-back wins he hoped would propel him toward his party’s presidential nomination, losing the Iowa caucuses five days before what is now for him a pivotal New Hampshire primary.

(That’s actually significantly toned down from the first story that hit the wire) The Romney campaign, already down, can expect much more negative coverage from the media, which already dislikes him. It is certainly possible that there will be falling turnout at his events and fewer volunteers. Already down 6-9 points to McCain, this just makes his life harder.

McCain is trying to turn this environment tactically against Romney. Excerpts from his statement:

Negative campaigns don’t work in IA and they don’t work here in NH. … 100th townhall tomorrow in NH. … We put the old lightening back in the bottle. … We will continue our positive campaigning…. Very confident of victory.

McCain is trying to remind the people of New Hampshire of his special relationship with them. The press is not reporting McCain’s placement, and in 2000 he placed even lower. Local reporters and pundits expect no negative impact of McCain’s showing.

The conclusion for the top-line race is this: McCain keeps his momentum, while Romney, his most likely challenger, will likely take a significant hit. Advantage McCain.

For the rest of the candidates, read on.

Huckabee faces a uniquely awkward environment, even if he has 9.5% in the RCP average. In Iowa, he posted 14% of non-evangelical vote, versus 50%-ish of the evangelical vote. But there are very, very few evangelicals in New Hampshire. His message here is about his record on taxes. It will be interesting to see where this climbs to and who it comes from. Any Huckabee succcess will be interpreted as proof that he can perform outside of evangelical voters.

Rudy Giuliani. Rudy has a problem here. He is gone, and people will notice. He got 1/3rd of the vote of Ron Paul in Iowa. If he repeats that, the fundamental logic of his candidacy disappears. (Incidentally, recent polling suggests that he has a similar problem in Michigan)

Fred Thompson. Fred’s game is not in New Hampshire. It is South Carolina. He has virtually no organization, and has only been here … twice? He might do a drive-by, but no one expects him to succeed here, and he is currently at the bottom of the big-5 here. It does not look like Fred’s 3d place Iowa showing is really being reported, so he is unlikely to get a real bounce here.

Ron Paul. He could do well here. There is a natural crusty libertarian base here that he appeals to. And there is plenty of evidence of a good grassroots organization. But his message appears limited here.

Today I am off to Romney, Huckabee, and McCain events to see what is going on here. If you have ideas for questions or observations, email me at soren.dayton-at-gmail.com.

Anecdotes ? Data

But it sure is interesting:

OTTUMWA, Iowa–Last night, I attended a Mike Hucabee event at the Bridge View Center here and made the conservative estimate that he drew a crowd of 400 to 500 inside an auditorium that held 650. When I noticed that Mitt Romney had an event at the same place this afternoon, I looked forward to getting an apples to apples comparison. I showed up again today and walked into the auditorium where I had seen Huckabee the night before, only to find it empty. The Romney event "is in a much smaller room on the other side," I was told. Whereas the room where Huckabee spoke was the size of a large movie theater, for the Romney event I was directed to "Conference Room 1," where I counted about 100 people once the event started.

If this is real, and I am not necessarily advocating the position that it is, you have to wonder what the head of the Iowa Christian Alliance was thinking. That said, nice get by Mitt Romney.

Pro-Huckabee group goes up with anti-Romney ad

Trust Huckabee, the somewhat controversial pro-Huckabee 501(c)(4), has gone up on the air with a pro-Huckabee ad and launched an anti-Romney site.

No news yet about the size of the buy. It does strike me that, at this point, Mike Huckabee is more likely to lose votes to someone else than to Romney. Romney’s ads probably remove some votes from Huckabee and add them to someone other than either one of them. Similarly, these ads may not add votes to Huckabee, but they may tear down Romney.

It is unclear how big this buy is. Previous attacks on Romney have been press releases.

UPDATE: Bob Novak notes that, in a suspicious poll that puts Fred Thompson below 1%, John McCain is the 2nd choice of Huckabee and Romney supporters. If they tear each other up this week, does it mean that McCain rises? I doubt that you can come to any meaningful conclusion in an unpublished poll with silly answers. But something to ponder.

Huckabee, Baptists, and “conservatives”

Bob Novak, no friend of Mike Huckabee, wrote about Huckabee and the conservative movement (aka "conservative resurgence") in the Southern Baptist Convention. We focused on interviews with two of the leaders without that movement, Richard Land and Judge Paul Pressler:

The warmth in Texas and hostility in California reflects the dual personality of the pastor-politician who has broken out of the presidential campaign’s second tier. Huckabee can come across as either a Reagan or a Nixon. More than personality explains why not all his Baptist brethren have signed on the dotted line for Huckabee. He did not join the "conservative resurgence" that successfully rebelled against liberals in the Southern Baptist Convention a generation ago. …

Huckabee’s encounter with Pressler two months ago did not deter the judge from telling me this week much the same thing he said to the Journal’s Fund: "I don’t know of conservative appointments he made, and I don’t know of any contribution to the conservatives." After Huckabee’s warm greeting in Houston on Tuesday, however, Pressler told me: "I would never do anything to hurt him." But he did not go so far as endorsing Huckabee for president, and that sends a strong message to conservative evangelicals.

I would add that (political) conservative movement leader Morton Blackwell, also a Baptist who is thought to have advised Pressler during the Baptist fights in the late 70s and early 80s, also went with Thompson. Of course those guys have lost control of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the last election a "moderate" Frank Page won.

Now what is going on here? Generational change. Theological change. Two National Review writers get it. Ramesh Ponnuru writing at Time says:

Part of the reason for his campaign’s success may be that it reflects new currents in evangelical thought. Younger Evangelicals oppose abortion even more than their elders do, but they are also more likely to believe that the protection of the environment and the alleviation of poverty are moral concerns that demand a political response.

Byron York says:

Then Huckabee got into what is really the basis of his appeal for many voters. He’s tapping into that new sort of evangelicalism, that Rick Warren-style worldview that David Brooks and others have been writing about for a few years now. It is real, it is different from older-style evangelicalism, as well as from economic or national-security conservatism, and Huckabee has his finger on it

In both Republican and Baptist politics, Thompson represents the old conservative movement trying to keep power that it has in many ways already lost. Huckabee represents a new movement in American politics and American Protestantism. Who is winning? I refer you to the numbers.

Oh yeah, and that’s the way to look at that "Huck as the new Fred" meme.

Drudge’s lamest “Huck is a Christian” attack yet

You won’t believe this.

Drudge is attacking Mike Huckabee for having a floating cross in his ad.

Dude. It is a Christmas ad. He says "Christ."  Silent Night is playing in the background. Huckabee stops speaking when the hymn comes to "mother and child."

It ain’t subtle.

Please tell me that Mitt Romney’s campaign isn’t behind this. Matt Rhoades is too smart to think of this.

New Huck and Mitt ads in IA

New ads are up. The verdict is in. Huck wins the exchange. I do agree that the crime and ethics issues are what ought to hurt Mike Huckabee.

One of the big questions was how people were going to handle ads around Christmas. Huckabee has managed to come up with an ad that can run the whole time and that is part of his message.

Now the real question is going to be whether someone (paging Fred Thompson) goes negative on Mitt Romney. Thompson has great material for this.