HUCKABEE: A REVERSE HOWARD DEAN?
When I look at Huckabeemania, I'm struck by the fact that Republicans seem to doing exactly the opposite of what Democrats did in late 2003 and early 2004.
In that election cycle, Democrats embraced Howard Dean, a second-career governor from a poor rural state who had no foreign policy experience and who seemed to a lot of people to be too far to the left to avoid a general-election blowout. Then, as the primary season approached, Democrats began to have doubts about his electability and turned away from him.
Mike Huckabee is a second-career governor from a poor rural state who has no foreign policy experience and who seems to a lot of people to be too far to the right (or at least too far to the Christian right) to avoid a general-election blowout -- but Republicans are gravitating toward him, at just about the same point in the election cycle that Democrats began shying away from a Dean vote.
Why the different reactions to an inspiring candidate with, presumably, limited across-the-board appeal? Well, Republicans have been worried about electability -- hence the Giulianimania that prevailed for most of the year (and Rudy is, of course, still leading in most national polls).
But Republicans generally worry less about going outside the bounds of acceptable opinion, probably because the GOP noise machine has been so good over the years at redrawing those bounds. They're not nearly as much in the habit of giving a damn about what the general public thinks as Democrats are. So maybe they've just stopped caring.
I've been the gloomiest guy in America on the subject of the Democrats' chances in the '08 presidential race (well, maybe Bob Somerby is gloomier), but even I think nominating Huckabee would be electoral suicide for the GOP. But who knows? Maybe, once there's a Democratic nominee (especially if it's Hillary), the mainstream press would decide Huckabee was eminently suitable for the presidency.
Here's something I hadn't noticed:
Grover Norquist, who as head of Americans for Tax Reform is the de facto policy pope of the supply-side right, has pointedly refrained from joining in on the anti-Huckabee assaults mounted by the Club for Growth and allied columnists like Robert Novak and Jonah Goldberg. Mr. Norquist recently told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that he looked kindly upon Mr. Huckabee's centerpiece tax reform -- institution of the national retail "fair tax" ...
True, Mr. Huckabee has been more accommodating of Mr. Norquist than the group he likes to call "the Club for Greed" -- he's lately signed on to the ATR pledge to introduce no new tax increases from the White House. But it's at least as striking that Mr. Norquist -- best known for his pledge to shrink the state until it could be drowned in a bathtub -- seems barely to blanch at a recidivist tax hiker like Mr. Huckabee.
Norquist is a beloved non-Bible-belting member of the Beltway establishment. If he's cool with Huck, can Chris Matthews and Joe Klein be far behind?