There has been a lot of attention recently placed on Mike Huckabee:
- Krusty Konservative names Mike Huckabee as his "breakout kandidate" of 2007, although Caucus Cooler argues that he just hasn’t been present.
- I recently noted that Paul Weyrich likes Huckabee. And another leading conservative leader was telling people at a New Years party yesterday that he thought Huckabee was the guy (and had some nasty, nasty things to say about Romney. The "Mormon issue" was alive and well with this guy and what he said would make the hair on your neck stand up)
- Matt Lewis noted that, even if the buzz around Huckabee’s fundraiser was bogus, it is still good buzz.
- An article in the Washington Post that indicates his coyness.
In other words, Huckabee has been attracting a lot of significant attention. There still is no credible candidate of the religious right. Sam Brownback is not setting anyone afire. Frankly, he’s a boring speaker, but he does quite well in small groups. In the context of the Iowa caucus, there’s always room for a breakout candidate who fires up the religious voters. Mike Huckabee could be that guy. Read on.
Now the interesting question is, were he to catch fire and, say, come in first or second in Iowa, what would this do for the field? First of all, I suspect that he’s not going to overpower in New Hampshire (and this would be spinnable). But he could have a significant impact in South Carolina, which is quite Baptist — recall that Huckabee is a Southern Baptist minister. So let’s go back to Iowa and consider the impacts.
First, the conventional wisdom is that there are three tickets out of Iowa. If Huckabee takes one, and McCain takes the other (being the front-runner with a good organization — Krusty points out that McCain is the only candidate with a strong social conservative organizer on staff — and acceptable credentials on most of the important issues) then that leaves only one remaining between Romney and Giuliani. Romney has the staff edge, but there are difficulties for him on the horizon, especially if he continues to get bashed from the right, although the vote in the legislature was a win for Romney. And I still don’t really know how to think of a Giuliani candidacy outside of the Northeast. As a hero, he changes the dynamic, but it really is too early to figure out how.
Second, where do these voters come from? Clearly moral conservatives, but this is where Romney needs to go to present himself as the McCain alternative. (recall that his narrative is "the only conservative who can beat McCain") Suddenly, an energizing speaker with credible appeal to social conservatives and a governor with an acceptable record. Wow. Sounds like Romney. But wait. He’s a Southern Baptist Minister from Arkansas, not a venture capitalist/management consultant Mormon from
Michigan Massachusetts Utah Massachusetts . Which one relates to small town Iowa farmers better? And as Krusty points out, Romney has not been able to hire a conservative field organizer yet. Now Brownback could do well with a strong appeal on issues and an agriculture background, but he just makes it harder for both of them. And, besides, he’s a lousy speaker.
A serious Huckabee candidacy will create an important dynamic. He’s not likely to win, but he could have a significant impact.