You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

But What If Huckabee Loses?

There's been a lot of talk recently, particularly in elite conservative circles, about the disaster that will befall the GOP if Mike Huckabee wins the party's nomination. There may or may not be something to that. But I think people are overlooking the disaster that may befall the GOP if Huckabee loses the nomination. Particularly if he loses it at the hands of a budding effort by DC and New York-based conservative elites--or, as Marc Ambinder puts it, the same coalition that torpedoed the Harriet Miers nomination.

Consider the subtext--and, in many cases, the text--of the argument the anti-Huckabee forces are making, which is that the former governor is a small-time Southern rube. As National Review's Rich Lowry recently put it, "Huckabee is an under-vetted former governor who is manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States. ... Wherever you scratch Huckabee on policy, he seems an inch deep." Okay, fine. But keep in mind: It's one thing to make this kind of argument against a Harriet Miers, a crony of the president who had no obvious popular support. It's quite another thing to make this argument against an extremely likeable politician who's become the overwhelming favorite of conservative evangelicals and is now tied or leading in several national polls. How do you essentially tell one-third or more of your party that they don't know what they're doing, that they're a bunch of rubes?

Republicans have won the votes of downscale evangelicals for years by arguing that Democrats condescend to them and sneer at them behind their backs. Well, how do you think they're going to respond if East-coast conservative elites start doing the same thing--but in full public view? My guess is not well. Conservative evangelicals still complain about a 1993 Washington Post article that describes them as "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command."* That's going to look like a compliment by the time the conservative opinion apparatus gets done with Mike Huckabee.

*Obviously conservative elites had a hand in riling up the rank and file about this...  

Update: Huckabee laid some groundwork for the anti-elite backlash in an absolutely fascinating interview with "The Today Show" this morning. (Watch the video here. Something's screwy with our software so I can't embed it just yet.) Money quote: "The Wall Street to Washington axis--this corridor of power--is absolutely frantically against me. But out there in America, the reason that we're number one in the polls is because I'm the guy who doesn't have some off-shore mailbox and bank account in the Caymans hiding my money. I'm the guy who worked my way up through it. And there are a whole lot of people in America who believe that the president ought to be a servant of the people, and ought not to be elected to the ruling class." Damn this is getting interesting.

Second Update: Here's the video. The part I quoted starts just under five minutes in:

--Noam Scheiber