REPEAT AFTER ME: ONLY DEMOCRATS ENGAGE IN IDENTITY POLITICS. ONLY DEMOCRATS ENGAGE IN IDENTITY POLITICS. ONLY DEMOCRATS...
(Bumped to the top because you can read about Romney's withdrawal anywhere.)
Yes, the headline to this story has the word "Identity" in it, and it's in the "Politics" section of the New York Times Web site, but don't even think about putting the two words together, dammit, 'cause these are Republicans we're talking about, and they don't do that kind of thing!
Huckabee Claims Identity as Candidate of the South
Mike Huckabee fashioned a new campaign identity after his victories in five Southern primaries on Tuesday, proclaiming himself the candidate of the Republicans' true base, the South.
... That message could not be more explicitly regional, as enunciated by Mr. Huckabee to stunned and cheering supporters in a suburban Little Rock assembly hall on Tuesday night. Indeed, Mr. Huckabee suggested he was winning in the region precisely because of his conservative orthodoxy....
There were the Bible-coded references to his opponents....
There were nods to gun owners and to anti-abortion partisans....
And there was another bit in Huckabee's Super Tuesday speech that impressed John Podhoretz even as its actual meaning escaped him (Pod being, of course, a Northeasterner, and not really up on these things):
Mike Huckabee has just riffed on songs representing all the states in which he is still competitive tonight. It was a pure improv, and very impressive, even if corny.
Actually, he was riffing on the college teams of the states in which he was competitive, as well as the fight songs, plus the outcome of one big college football game. Here's the transcript, to which I've added links for Podhoretz's reference:
Now, it's tough for this old razorback to say things like roll, tide roll, but I'm doing it tonight.
And it's tough for this old razorback to look over there to the state just to the east of us and anticipate being able to say that we're two volunteers. I think before the night is over, I'll even be singing "Rocky Top."
This old razorback may even catch some bulldog fever before the night is over. And we're going to forget all about the Cotton Bowl and even be grateful for our friends to the north before tonight night is over, I'm fully believing.
I shouldn't rag on Podhoretz. The point of this was to say to Mitt Romney, "Hey, Mitt, I live down here. I can talk about college football all day. I bet you couldn't even read something like this off a Teleprompter."
(And I don't want to forget Huck's talk about eating squirrel, his Confederate flag pander, and his criticism of Romney's approach to fried chicken.)
Huckabee really is appealing to Southern evangelicals, not evangelicals as a whole. Here was an interesting detail from yesterday's Times:
... according to exit polls provided by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, evangelical voters [in California] split among Mr. McCain, Mitt Romney and, to a lesser degree, Mike Huckabee.
"To a lesser degree." So God matters, but what really seems to matter is whether you set aside your chicken skin.
Also see Mark Steyn:
There was an explicit anti-Romney vote in the South. A mere month ago, in the wake of Iowa and New Hampshire, I received a ton of e-mails from southern readers saying these pansy northern states weren't the "real" conservative heartland, and things would look different once the contest moved to the South. Well, the heartland spoke last night and about the only message it sent was that, no matter what the talk radio guys say, they're not voting for a Mormon; no way, no how.
But, see, we're not supposed to talk about this the way we talk about Clinton vs. Obama. We're not allowed to say that these Southerners see themselves as members of an identity group first and as Americans second, and that that's why they won't help Mitt Romney give John McCain a run for his money. Heaven forfend -- only Democrats and liberals do that kind of thing. Only Democrats and liberals see themselves as hyphenated Americans.
We're told that Democrats play the "race card" and the "gender card," but I've never even encountered the phrase "Southern card" -- and that's exactly what Huckabee is playing.
(Steyn link via the Mahablog.)