Feature

Huckabee: The honeymoon’s over

I’m not saying he’s not affable, said Rich Lowry in National Review, but if Mike Huckabee wins the Republican presidential nomination it “would represent an act of suicide by his party.” The former Arkansas governor has surged from nowhere to lead the GOP

I’m not saying he’s not affable, said Rich Lowry in National Review, but if Mike Huckabee wins the Republican presidential nomination it “would represent an act of suicide by his party.” The former Arkansas governor has surged from nowhere to lead the GOP field in Iowa—whose first-in-the-nation caucus is but a few weeks away—purely on the strength of his winning personality and unashamedly Christian brand of social conservatism. Many Republicans are now waking up in panic to the fact that the man “has zero national security credentials,” was a serial tax-raiser in Arkansas, and now supports a crackpot scheme to abolish the IRS. And while religious conservatives are an important part of the Republican base, nominating a Southern Baptist preacher who doesn’t believe in evolution “would be rather overdoing it.” Democrats must regard Huckabee the way Republicans, four years ago, looked at Howard Dean—“as a shiny Christmas present that is too good to be true.”

Republicans fully deserve Mike Huckabee, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. “But the nation doesn’t.” For most liberals, the prospect of a President Huckabee—however remote—is the stuff of nightmares. It isn’t just his social conservatism but also the feeling that here, again, is a man who is “simply not up to the job.” Nor are all of us convinced by Huckabee’s Mr. Nice Guy act, said Gail Collins in The New York Times. As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee stepped in to “stop an abortion for a 15-year-old mentally retarded girl who was raped by her stepfather.” He was also of the opinion that AIDS patients should be quarantined from the general public. That’s not the kind of “affability” we’re looking for in our next president.

The elites of both parties assume Huckabee would be an “easy kill” in a general election, said James Pinkerton in Newsday. They’re forgetting that he’d likely be running against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, both of whom could easily come across as urban, John Kerry­–like sophisticates next to the folksy, Southern Huckabee. As for Huckabee’s positions on issues such as AIDS and creationism, said John Heilemann in New York, in the crucial precincts of Middle America, those views “aren’t seen as faux pas but badges of honor.” Combine that with his economic populism and his charm, and you have a guy who might win not only Iowa but also the heavily evangelical South Carolina. At that point, “his momentum could prove unstoppable,” which is why panic is now spreading through the Republican field.

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