I have been prodded by a few close friends to comment on the "boom" in Governor Michael Huckabee’s numbers in the recent Iowa polls. Will he win in Iowa? Is this the candidate that many social conservatives have been longing for over the last year or more? And if he wins in the Iowa caucus will people like James Dobson, and similar voices from the religious right that have remained rather silent about open endorsements, then line publicly up in support of Huckabee? I think the answers are yes and yes. He can win in Iowa and if he does win I expect many religious conservatives to come out big time for Mike Huckabee.

I have personally known for well over a year that some of these religious conservatives were lying in the weeds waiting for this boom. Huckabee was their man, in private, for some time but these political operatives knew he was a political dark horse. They waited and waited. Now that he is leading and getting attention expect more from them on the virtues of a Huckabee presidency. The reason is basic, indeed downright populist. Huckabee speaks the special language of some evangelicals thus they will emotionally love his message when they hear it. A great example of how Huckabee is appealing to evangelical voters occurred in the Christmas ad that he ran on television in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina yesterday. If you haven’t seen it you should.

Criticism for this ad came quickly. Huckabee was in Texas for a fundraiser and responded by saying the ad was a harmless holiday greeting. He added, "If we are so politically correct in this country that a person can’t say ‘enough of the nonsense with the political attack ads could we pause for a few days and say Merry Christmas to each other’ then we’re really, really in trouble as a country."

I have no doubt that what Michael Huckabee was doing was overtly political. After all, the ad ends with him saying this is a paid political ad and he approves it. He is saying to evangelicals, whom he wants to help propel him to the White House, "I am one of you and you can count on it." His injection of religion into the election is so obvious that you do not need a degree in political science to see it.

This all raises a number of questions for me. Who is Mike Huckabee? Is he the same man who raised taxes in Arkansas by an astonishing 63%? Is he the same man who shows incredibly naive views of immigration and foreign policy? His actions show him to be an even bigger government conservative than George W. Bush, hardly the standard for the party of Ronald Reagan.

Mike Huckabee is not a radical, as libertarians and liberals both  portray him. I think he is a sincere and genial man who loves his country and feels what so many of us feel at a deeply religious level. But this is my problem with him. He seems to be running as both a politician and as a Baptist minister. The two do not mix at all. Huckabee, in my view, would be destroyed in a general election. He has flip-flopped on so many issues that it makes your head spin if you begin to read his views on various important political content. (This seems to be due to his lack of having a firm grasp on many big issues not his sincerity.) And he switches on what appears to be core beliefs "in-artfully," as conservative commentator Rick Moran has put it. He has flipped on immigration, flopped on sanctions on Cuba and in the process joined the mainstream. This is a good thing in the big picture but it shows how incapable he is to articulate a well-thought out philosophy of governing. Against candidates like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain he looks like a rank amateur who is feeling his way along as he goes.

I may be too cynical about all these candidates, as I see real flaws in them all for sure, but I do not think we need a nominee who is learning as he goes along. At this point I want a president who comes to the office with some serious experience. This was a major problem with George W. Bush and why he seems to have held on to his closest advisers well past their effectiveness. His character, at least to my mind, is not the issue but his ability.   

We hear a lot about the Mormon issue with Governor Romney. I think it is an issue (if properly nuanced and discussed with religious bigotry) but this is not the place to get into why I think this way. I also think there is a serious problem with choosing a Baptist minister for president, for an entirely different but not totally dissimilar reason.

I think the Huckaboom will grow, dip slightly, and perhaps gain momentum once more if he wins in Iowa, but I expect it will also crash at some point past Iowa and South Carolina. 

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  1. Peter December 20, 2007 at 5:06 am

    The Huckaboom is a fascinating development in the current political cycle. While I am sympathetic to the notion that Huckabee is lacking in areas desirable in a president and is far too much of a religous right guy for the general populace, I think there is more here than meets the eye. I would suggest that he is embodying the center of gravity in American politics. The average everyday voter is culturally traditional and economically moderate. I think Huckabee embodies this and a lot of folks like that. There is more of course, but my hunch is this explains a lot of the boom.

  2. Helen December 20, 2007 at 5:18 am

    Have you seen this video clip of Huckabee?
    I think he was foolish to say there was no explanation for his poll results apart from Divine Intervention. By saying that he’s saying he’s not better than other candidates in any discernible way that would have caused them to make a rational decision that they’d vote for him.
    Also, it’s very presumptuous to imply God showed partiality to him in the poll results.

  3. Scott December 22, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts about Huckabee. I’ve been intrigued with his candidacy.
    You make observations about Huckabee’s record in Arkansas, his political strategy to gain evangelical support and you question his experience on serious issues. Fair enough.
    What I don’t get is your statement, “He seems to be running as both a politician and Baptist minister. The two do not mix at all…”
    Why not? Other candidates have run as both a military officer and politician; businessman and politician; attorney and politician. That’s who they were. How could they do otherwise?
    Are you saying that being a minister, without respect to experience or policy, should disqualify a candidate? If so, I have to totally disagree.

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