Commentary Magazine


Huckabee Goes on the Offensive

Before the debate last night, I speculated that Mike Huckabee might play the role of McCain’s attack dog. He did not, preferring instead to bolster his appeal with social conservatives and perhaps to avoid a brushback accusation from Mitt Romney that he was, well, playing the role of McCain’s attack dog.

This morning on the increasingly newsworthy Morning Joe Huckabee let it rip. He started with this about Romney:

Here’s a man who didn’t hit political puberty in the conservative ranks until 60 years old. . . Here’s a guy who just ten years ago was saying, look, I’m an independent. I’m not for that Reagan-Bush legacy. And now he wraps himself in it. Here’s a guy who, despite what he says, his record in Massachusetts was significant increases in fees. And the numbers, you know, I’m going to the independent objective reports of those, and they were more like $700 million. He’s a recent convert to pro life. He still doesn’t have a solid stance on the second amendment. He believes that Brady and banning assault weapons, which they’re so-called, which is not a conservative position. He’s a recent convert to traditional marriage view. He at one time said he would do more for the gay community than Ted Kennedy. That’s not a conservative position. So I just don’t understand this whole thing about so many people, whether it’s Rush Limbaugh or anyone else, saying he’s the conservative in the race. He may be saying conservative things now, but he certainly wasn’t saying them until he ran for president, and his record is not one of being consistent. When you have an abortion bill in your state as part of your health package that for $50 you guarantee a government-funded abortion within your health plan to any person who’s truly pro life, that is not conservative.

Then he explained why this matters:

It’s about the credibility of the candidacy and whether or not there’s authenticity. And for me, give me a guy that I disagree with but at least I know he’s speaking from his convictions, and it’s not just a convenient political view that he’s taking because today I’m talking to a women’s group, so I’m pro woman. But tomorrow I’m talking to a men’s group, so I’m not. That’s what disturbs me, and I think it’s the kind of politics that just really turns people off.

The full performance is here. Well, I suppose he is still in the running for McCain’s VP. However, it also does explain why the “rally around Romney” phenomenon has not occured. The anti-McCain sentiment is real among staunch conservative opinion makers, but conservative voters just have not rallied to Romney enthusiastically because he really has not been a movement conservative. It is politically difficult from the perspective of disgruntled conservatives just to be against McCain; they would have to stir a groundswell of support for the alternative. That simply hasn’t happened, for many of the reasons Huckabee identified.