Saturday, December 08, 2007


Did you notice one unintended consequence of the Romney religion speech? It knocked the biggest scandal threatening Romney's toughest challenger completely off the front pages. A couple of days ago, some were speculating that the pardon issued to Wayne Dumond, and Huckabee's lack of forthrightness concerning his involvement in that pardon, could sink his candidacy. And then Romney spoke and everyone forgot about Wayne Dumond.


Then again, it probably wouldn't have mattered -- the evangelicals are rallying to Huckabee regardless, and now we have this stunning Newsweek poll (conducted just as the latest Dumond stories were surfacing, by the way):

The ordained Southern Baptist minister now leads Romney by a two-to-one margin, 39 percent to 17 percent, among likely GOP caucus-goers. In the last NEWSWEEK survey, conducted Sept. 26-27, Huckabee polled a mere 6 percent to Romney's 25 percent, which then led the field.

The problem is, for religious conservatives, the Dumond situation can't be a problem, by definition -- failing to be tough on crime is something liberals do, and Huckabee to them, cause he's an extremely devout Southern Baptist, can't possibly be a liberal. His supporters can't fit the Dumond story into their image of him, so they're just ignoring it.

It's true that some other right-wingers are able to process this -- but only the ones who aren't completely won over by his religious faith, and who are completely won over by the attacks on him by the Club for Growth and others as a tax-and-spender. Thus, in a Free Republic thread on the Dumond case, one Freeper exclaims, in what seems to be a non sequitur but isn't:

Michael Dale Huckabee is just a slick nanny stater!

Only rightists who put Huckabee into that frame seem able to process the Dumond story -- his religious supporters apparently can't. Similarly, when Huckabee responded to a reporter's question on the Iran National Intelligence Estimate by pleading ignorance of the report and treating the question as a "gotcha," Shawn Macomber at The American Spectator's blog sneered:

Alas, liberal on taxes, liberal on the environmentalism and liberal in his desire to ultimately be a victim...

Mitt Romney, of course, appears to have the opposite problem: He served up a heaping helping of theocrat red meat this week, yet it's quite likely that fundie voters simply can't process this fact because Romney is a dirty filthy Satanic Mormon.

We seem to be watching a Republican crack-up. If, heaven help us, Huckabee really is on his way to the nomination (he's leading in South Carolina, too, according to two new polls, and is now a strong second nationally according to one), that would mean the GOP had undercut three candidates who really could win in November.

First, wingnuts turned on John McCain (who's probably still the most electable Republican) for his immigration stance, his disrespect of the religious right, and his support of campaign finance reform. Then religious-right leaders turned on Giuliani, and now the religious-right rank-and-file seems to be giving the back of its hand to Romney.

I still can't quite believe that the GOP will hand the reins to that doe-eyed naïf from from Arkansas -- remember, Giuliani is still leading in most national polls, and maybe we're finally going to have a race that isn't over before Super Tuesday, and the big non-rural states that vote that day will put Rudy (or Mitt) over the top.

If that happens, I think (alas) the GOP will pull itself together. But maybe the Republicans really are so besotted now with notions of purity in the culture wars that they'll hand it to Huck and go down in flames with him.

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