Commentary Magazine


Huckabee: Less Is More

We can speculate as to why Mike Huckabee is remaining in the race. (He needs over 80% of the remaining delegates to win so the reason is not “to win.”) He might want to increase what bargaining power he thinks he has regarding John McCain’s VP slot or he may think he is laying the groundwork for 2012. However, there is a good argument that the longer he stays in the worse impression he makes and the more damage he does to his future political aspirations.

The low down on the tempest in a teapot in Washington is here. (More votes were counted and McCain remains in the lead, although it appears not to be binding or impact the state convention.) Huckabee’s “woe is me/the big guys are out to get me” tactic is not likely to make McCain or anyone else in the GOP feel kindly toward him.

He is also stepping up his rhetoric against McCain at a time when many conservatives are largely making peace with their almost-nominee. (Ironically, many in the conservative base who liked Huckabee and his populist rhetoric and fuzzy foreign policy notions even less than McCain may come to appreciate McCain’s many assets, if only in comparison to Huckabee.)

In the short run, all of this may help the GOP frontrunner. Currently, Huckabee poses no threat to McCain’s nomination. McCain is likely to cruise to victories tomorrow and in Wisconsin, leaving Huckabee close to mathematical elimination. As Huckabee turns from amusing sparring partner to annoying crank, McCain can focus his attention to more viable running mates who may help him both with conservatives and with the general electorate. It was clear that Huckabee loathed Mitt Romney, but for his own sake, he might have been better off to have followed the lead of his rival and left the stage at the right time. For McCain, Huckabee’s ongoing presence may strangely help him make the case to skeptics on the right that he is not so bad after all.