Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Switching from the urbanite to the Arkansan? Switching from the thrice-married, drag-wearing pro-choicer to the Baptist minister? Switching from the angry guy to Mr. Nice Guy? Strange, but according to the L.A. Times, it seems to be happening:

Mike Huckabee, the ascendant Republican presidential candidate in Iowa, is enjoying a surge of support across the country -- and Rudolph W. Giuliani seems to be paying the biggest price, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found....

In the Times/Bloomberg poll, Huckabee was preferred by 17% of likely GOP voters -- up from 7% in a similar October survey.

Support for Giuliani, the former New York mayor who once enjoyed a commanding lead in national polls, slid 9 percentage points over the last two months -- to 23%.

Support for other GOP candidates remained largely unchanged....

And Huck is cutting into one of Rudy's big voting blocs:

Among self-described conservatives, Huckabee is running even with Giuliani, with support from 20% of voters -- a big swing from October, when Giuliani drew 34% of conservatives and Huckabee 9%....

I thought I saw this happening a week ago, and I took a tentative stab at trying to explain it:

...the Rudy appeal was always that he was that he was a transcendent secular saint, a guy who'd survived an encounter with Death. Huck is a wimpy preacher who's encountered the Big Bad Media and is beating their ridicule while waving a Bible, which must seem even better, even more transcendent, to many GOP voters than emerging from the smoke of Ground Zero.

Conservatives always want a hero, someone who'll be a bulwark against Pure Evil -- which may be defined as Al Qaeda or Saddam or Ahmedinejad or "the liberal media" or Mexican immigrants or the Clintons or Satan. (Conservatives would say I repeated myself with those last two.) They always think their enemies are both all-powerful and weird, while their heroes embody all the virtues of manly normality.

My guess is that the used to think Rudy was the pure American man on a white steed -- and now they're starting to see that he's weird (and far from pure). Huckabee, by contrast, seems quite pure, and isn't weird to conservative Republicans -- he's jes' folks.

And maybe the worst thing that could have happened to Giuliani was the spread of stories that violence is down in Iraq -- or the spread of stories that say Hillary Clinton is in trouble. He was supposed to be the big smiter of those two sources of Pure Evil, the Al Qaediraniraqis and the Clintons -- and now a lot of his voters seem to be turning instead to a guy who says he can slay Ol' Nick. Because if you're conservative, you gotta have an enemy.


Yes, I know I'm agreeing somewhat with Peter Beinart's contention that a sense of improvement in Iraq is helping Huckabee, and I know Lord Atrios has told us that that's not an acceptable opinion on the left. But while Atrios is right that concern about Iraq isn't fading, that it's still very much the #1 issue on the minds of respondents to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, it should also be noted that the same poll shows a significant recent increase in the numbers of Republicans and Republican-leaners who say the surge is working. The L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll also surveys both Republicans and Republican-leaners. So it may still be their #1 issue, but they do think the situation is now less dire.

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