Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mike Huckabee

McCain Has The “Mo”

McCain builds momentum as we head into the weekend. He gains former Rudy backer and ex-Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci (and decides to make Romney sweat in his home state) and also nabs former Rudy advisor Steve Forbes. (Fiscal conservatives can argue whether Forbes or McCain advisor Phil Gramm would make a better Treasury Secretary.) Finally, the McCain team advises the media that in the excruciatingly complicated Louisiana caucuses (in which an uncommitted pro-life slate initially won), the delegates have now selected McCain. He nabs 41 of 47 of the state’s delegates.

Little by little the pieces fall into place. Looking at the latest polling I see Mitt Romney leading only in Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah. In many Red states he runs third to MIke Huckabee. It is quite possible Huckabee will gain more delegates than Romney on Tuesday.

McCain builds momentum as we head into the weekend. He gains former Rudy backer and ex-Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci (and decides to make Romney sweat in his home state) and also nabs former Rudy advisor Steve Forbes. (Fiscal conservatives can argue whether Forbes or McCain advisor Phil Gramm would make a better Treasury Secretary.) Finally, the McCain team advises the media that in the excruciatingly complicated Louisiana caucuses (in which an uncommitted pro-life slate initially won), the delegates have now selected McCain. He nabs 41 of 47 of the state’s delegates.

Little by little the pieces fall into place. Looking at the latest polling I see Mitt Romney leading only in Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah. In many Red states he runs third to MIke Huckabee. It is quite possible Huckabee will gain more delegates than Romney on Tuesday.

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Romney Better Hope Huckabee Stays In

The latest Fox poll showing John McCain at 48%, Mitt Romney at 20% and Mike Huckabee with 19% is interesting for more than just the confirmation of the frontrunner bounce McCain has received. If Huckabee were not in the race McCain would lead 62% to 29%. (Yes, 62%.) So much for the theory that Huckabee hurts Romney.

On the head-to-head match ups, McCain leads Hillary Clinton by one point and trails Barack Obama by one point. (Both, obviously, are a statistical tie.) Romney trails Clinton by 14 points and by Obama by 18 points. But Romney has Ann Coulter in his corner. (By the way, in the most delicate way possible, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in response to my question whether Romney agreed with Coulter’s comments that conservatives should vote for Clinton if McCain were the nominee, “She has her opinion. Mitt Romney has a different opinion.”)

The latest Fox poll showing John McCain at 48%, Mitt Romney at 20% and Mike Huckabee with 19% is interesting for more than just the confirmation of the frontrunner bounce McCain has received. If Huckabee were not in the race McCain would lead 62% to 29%. (Yes, 62%.) So much for the theory that Huckabee hurts Romney.

On the head-to-head match ups, McCain leads Hillary Clinton by one point and trails Barack Obama by one point. (Both, obviously, are a statistical tie.) Romney trails Clinton by 14 points and by Obama by 18 points. But Romney has Ann Coulter in his corner. (By the way, in the most delicate way possible, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in response to my question whether Romney agreed with Coulter’s comments that conservatives should vote for Clinton if McCain were the nominee, “She has her opinion. Mitt Romney has a different opinion.”)

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Re: Romney’s Money

The breakdown on how much the presidential candidates spent on TV ads is stunning. Mitt Romney ran 34,281 ads costing $29M. John McCain ran 10,830 ads costing $8M. Mike Huckabee ran 5831 ads at a cost of $2.6M. What did it get them? McCain has 93 delegates (that is approximately $86,000 in ad expenditure per delegate), Romney has 59 delegates (a little more than $490,000 per delegate), and Huckabee has 40 delegates (just $65,000 per delegate).

Some commentators questioned McCain’s management skills when his campaign spent too much and ran aground last year, but he appears to have been the turnaround artist here, operating with extreme frugality and getting an excellent return on his investment (with a bank loan to assist him). He did not run an operation which was staffed to the hilt and sent out e-mails every time the candidate sneezed. There’s a lesson or two in there.

The breakdown on how much the presidential candidates spent on TV ads is stunning. Mitt Romney ran 34,281 ads costing $29M. John McCain ran 10,830 ads costing $8M. Mike Huckabee ran 5831 ads at a cost of $2.6M. What did it get them? McCain has 93 delegates (that is approximately $86,000 in ad expenditure per delegate), Romney has 59 delegates (a little more than $490,000 per delegate), and Huckabee has 40 delegates (just $65,000 per delegate).

Some commentators questioned McCain’s management skills when his campaign spent too much and ran aground last year, but he appears to have been the turnaround artist here, operating with extreme frugality and getting an excellent return on his investment (with a bank loan to assist him). He did not run an operation which was staffed to the hilt and sent out e-mails every time the candidate sneezed. There’s a lesson or two in there.

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The Democrats Are Having All The Fun

What a depressing night for Republicans! Whatever the Democratic debate lacked in substance, it made up for in sheer exuberance. With the writers strike sucking the fun out of Hollywood society, the Obama-Clinton debate felt like an opening night gala. And what a show! The rallies outside, the opening photo-op, the cheers, the friendly banter, the applause, the movie stars, the booing of Wolf Blitzer’s editorializing, the glamour of the Kodak Theater. It was an orgy of Democratic chest-pounding and self-congratulation worthy of Oscar night, John. Who couldn’t enjoy this after last night’s somber and often angry snipe-fest at the mausoleum that is the Reagan library?

What ought to haunt the GOP the most is that this Democratic contest might not be settled until April 22, the Pennsylvania primary. That means another 10 weeks of this remarkable Democratic road show while McCain continues to debate Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul on Fox News.

A McCain-Clinton or McCain-Obama debate might make all this look very different, especially if any serious discussion of taxes or foreign policy emerges. But at the moment, it looks like the Democrats are hosting a much better frat-house rush party.

What a depressing night for Republicans! Whatever the Democratic debate lacked in substance, it made up for in sheer exuberance. With the writers strike sucking the fun out of Hollywood society, the Obama-Clinton debate felt like an opening night gala. And what a show! The rallies outside, the opening photo-op, the cheers, the friendly banter, the applause, the movie stars, the booing of Wolf Blitzer’s editorializing, the glamour of the Kodak Theater. It was an orgy of Democratic chest-pounding and self-congratulation worthy of Oscar night, John. Who couldn’t enjoy this after last night’s somber and often angry snipe-fest at the mausoleum that is the Reagan library?

What ought to haunt the GOP the most is that this Democratic contest might not be settled until April 22, the Pennsylvania primary. That means another 10 weeks of this remarkable Democratic road show while McCain continues to debate Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul on Fox News.

A McCain-Clinton or McCain-Obama debate might make all this look very different, especially if any serious discussion of taxes or foreign policy emerges. But at the moment, it looks like the Democrats are hosting a much better frat-house rush party.

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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.

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.

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Are We Better Off Than We Were Eight Years Ago?

In an effort to sound caring, Mitt Romney and John McCain couldn’t bring themselves to say yes. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul said no. This is ridiculous. Our economy is $3.2 trillion larger than it was in 2000 (in constant dollars, up 20 percent). Per capita income has risen from $34,000 to $44,000 (in constant dollars, up by 10 percent). Inflation has been historically low — at least until the last two quarters. Of course America is better off.

In an effort to sound caring, Mitt Romney and John McCain couldn’t bring themselves to say yes. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul said no. This is ridiculous. Our economy is $3.2 trillion larger than it was in 2000 (in constant dollars, up 20 percent). Per capita income has risen from $34,000 to $44,000 (in constant dollars, up by 10 percent). Inflation has been historically low — at least until the last two quarters. Of course America is better off.

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Three Questions For Tonight’s GOP Debate

How badly does Mitt Romney want to be President? If he really does, he will throw everything he has at McCain– temperament, immigration, taxes, conservative unity, “cap and trade,” and robo-calls — in a final, last ditch charge, a political Pickett’s Charge, to slow the McCain march to the nomination. (You may recall who won that encounter.) The risk to Romney: he stirs a backlash, McCain appears to rise above it, and both McCain’s nomination and Romney’s reputation are sealed for the history books. (Consider also that Romney is only 60 years old and might have other races in his future.)

How badly does John McCain want to be President? If he really does, he will show no trace of annoyance and no anger when Romney tries to get under his skin. If challenged on the latest flap over Romney’s alleged support for a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq, he will repeat in measured terms that he supported the surge and risked his nomination, but Romney played it coy until the surge was succeeding. As to all charges of disloyalty to the Republican party, he will simply invite the voters to compare their relative records of fidelity to conservative positions.

How badly does Mike Huckabee want to be Vice President? If he really does (and thinks he faces stiff competition from Charlie Crist, who helped deliver Florida and specifically the Tampa area to McCain), he’ll side with McCain on every dispute and use his most biting humor against Romney. The downside: an over-the-top performance may leave voters with a bitter taste in their mouths. (At 52 years old, he too may be thinking of future political runs.)

My guesses: “That badly” on #2 and 3.

How badly does Mitt Romney want to be President? If he really does, he will throw everything he has at McCain– temperament, immigration, taxes, conservative unity, “cap and trade,” and robo-calls — in a final, last ditch charge, a political Pickett’s Charge, to slow the McCain march to the nomination. (You may recall who won that encounter.) The risk to Romney: he stirs a backlash, McCain appears to rise above it, and both McCain’s nomination and Romney’s reputation are sealed for the history books. (Consider also that Romney is only 60 years old and might have other races in his future.)

How badly does John McCain want to be President? If he really does, he will show no trace of annoyance and no anger when Romney tries to get under his skin. If challenged on the latest flap over Romney’s alleged support for a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq, he will repeat in measured terms that he supported the surge and risked his nomination, but Romney played it coy until the surge was succeeding. As to all charges of disloyalty to the Republican party, he will simply invite the voters to compare their relative records of fidelity to conservative positions.

How badly does Mike Huckabee want to be Vice President? If he really does (and thinks he faces stiff competition from Charlie Crist, who helped deliver Florida and specifically the Tampa area to McCain), he’ll side with McCain on every dispute and use his most biting humor against Romney. The downside: an over-the-top performance may leave voters with a bitter taste in their mouths. (At 52 years old, he too may be thinking of future political runs.)

My guesses: “That badly” on #2 and 3.

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McCain Wins

Fox calls it. Mike Huckabee on Fox didn’t sound like he was hanging it up quite yet.

Fox calls it. Mike Huckabee on Fox didn’t sound like he was hanging it up quite yet.

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Ridiculous Early Analysis

If the Florida results remain as close as the exit polls make it appear, nothing is going to be resolved tonight on the Republican side with the frontrunners. If John McCain wins it by a point or two, he gets all the delegates and the headlines that he is the winner of Florida — which helps going into Super Tuesday. But Mitt Romney has no reason to back off, even though he will have lost four of the five real contests so far. He’s worked successfully now to establish himself as the McCain alternative, and there appears to be enough anger and suspicion of McCain among Republicans to make a Romney win plausible if McCain does something to injure himself.

And if Romney wins by a point or two, McCain just keeps going the same way he has. We’re going into a 21-state vote a week from now, and Romney’s money isn’t going to help him much because even he doesn’t have enough to flood the airwaves everywhere on his own behalf.
The question, now, is how long before Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee decide to drop out. Unless something extraordinary happens in the next two hours, Giuliani stands revealed as a strong candidate who made a clever and compelling effort to game the system and failed. And despite the idea that he was the Next Big Populist Thing, Huckabee can’t buy a non-Christian-identity vote.

What may help McCain is the prospect that Giuliani and Huckabee will both endorse him this week before Super Tuesday, which will allow McCain to argue that he is unifying the party by unifying his rivals behind him. If McCain could pull off getting Fred Thompson this week as well, he will have the best answer to the increasingly agitated conservative rage radiating toward him from the radio speakers and a browser near you.

If the Florida results remain as close as the exit polls make it appear, nothing is going to be resolved tonight on the Republican side with the frontrunners. If John McCain wins it by a point or two, he gets all the delegates and the headlines that he is the winner of Florida — which helps going into Super Tuesday. But Mitt Romney has no reason to back off, even though he will have lost four of the five real contests so far. He’s worked successfully now to establish himself as the McCain alternative, and there appears to be enough anger and suspicion of McCain among Republicans to make a Romney win plausible if McCain does something to injure himself.

And if Romney wins by a point or two, McCain just keeps going the same way he has. We’re going into a 21-state vote a week from now, and Romney’s money isn’t going to help him much because even he doesn’t have enough to flood the airwaves everywhere on his own behalf.
The question, now, is how long before Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee decide to drop out. Unless something extraordinary happens in the next two hours, Giuliani stands revealed as a strong candidate who made a clever and compelling effort to game the system and failed. And despite the idea that he was the Next Big Populist Thing, Huckabee can’t buy a non-Christian-identity vote.

What may help McCain is the prospect that Giuliani and Huckabee will both endorse him this week before Super Tuesday, which will allow McCain to argue that he is unifying the party by unifying his rivals behind him. If McCain could pull off getting Fred Thompson this week as well, he will have the best answer to the increasingly agitated conservative rage radiating toward him from the radio speakers and a browser near you.

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Sunday In Florida

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.

I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.

I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.

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The Tartuffe Award for the Evening…

…goes to Mike Huckabee, who has been running as a Christian identity-politics candidate. With great solemnity, he vowed he would never run away from his faith. Even if it made people uncomfortable. How…how…how noble. (I said something about the Clintons and Tartuffe during the Democratic firefight debate.)

…goes to Mike Huckabee, who has been running as a Christian identity-politics candidate. With great solemnity, he vowed he would never run away from his faith. Even if it made people uncomfortable. How…how…how noble. (I said something about the Clintons and Tartuffe during the Democratic firefight debate.)

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Sons?

Mike Huckabee just made the first terrible blunder of his time in these debates — bringing up Mitt Romney’s five sons and saying, effectively, that he should quit the campaign so he won’t spend their inheritance. Not funny, and maybe even a weird bank shot against Romney’s Mormonism. Fair is fair. Maybe Romney should mention Huckabee’s son in the next debate.

Mike Huckabee just made the first terrible blunder of his time in these debates — bringing up Mitt Romney’s five sons and saying, effectively, that he should quit the campaign so he won’t spend their inheritance. Not funny, and maybe even a weird bank shot against Romney’s Mormonism. Fair is fair. Maybe Romney should mention Huckabee’s son in the next debate.

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Huckabee and Paul

Ron Paul loves to express his cockamamie ideas on monetary policy. Mike Huckabee loves to talk about his cockamamie fair-tax scheme. Maybe there should be a special All-Cockamamie Debate featuring just the two of them.

Ron Paul loves to express his cockamamie ideas on monetary policy. Mike Huckabee loves to talk about his cockamamie fair-tax scheme. Maybe there should be a special All-Cockamamie Debate featuring just the two of them.

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In Debate: A Master Class on the Economy

Jennifer, I have to disagree. The opening minutes of the GOP debate tonight makes me think that the Republican party is once again at the front in the battle of ideas, at least on economics. Mitt Romney talked about corporate tax rates and private sector incentives; John McCain talked about pork barrel spending and the size of government; Rudy Giuliani spoke about the largest tax cut in history; Mike Huckabee made the case for old-style \ industrial policy and infrastructure spending; and Ron Paul argued for a strong dollar, better monetary policy, and deregulation. Despite the courtly tone, these are very different, if somewhat overlapping, views about the economy. Yes, these are broad, two-minute answers, but the various views are worth debating. Can anyone tell the difference on economic policy among Obama, Clinton, and Edwards? Obama
dislikes Reaganomics, Clinton hates corporations, and Edwards will spend
more on the poor. But is there any policy debate there?

Jennifer, I have to disagree. The opening minutes of the GOP debate tonight makes me think that the Republican party is once again at the front in the battle of ideas, at least on economics. Mitt Romney talked about corporate tax rates and private sector incentives; John McCain talked about pork barrel spending and the size of government; Rudy Giuliani spoke about the largest tax cut in history; Mike Huckabee made the case for old-style \ industrial policy and infrastructure spending; and Ron Paul argued for a strong dollar, better monetary policy, and deregulation. Despite the courtly tone, these are very different, if somewhat overlapping, views about the economy. Yes, these are broad, two-minute answers, but the various views are worth debating. Can anyone tell the difference on economic policy among Obama, Clinton, and Edwards? Obama
dislikes Reaganomics, Clinton hates corporations, and Edwards will spend
more on the poor. But is there any policy debate there?

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What Hath Talk Radio Wrought?

Michael Medved, the polymathic conservative writer, has worked for the past dozen years as a radio talk-show host. Unlike many of his fellow conservative talk-show hosts, he has not spent the past year and a half in a toxic rage against immigration. Nor has he concluded that John McCain represents a dagger aimed at the heart of the Right.

In a brave post on his blog, Medved posits that McCain’s victory in South Carolina (along with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee) represents a threat not to conservatism but rather to the viability and influence of talk radio, and that the wound is self-inflicted:

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck.

As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.”

A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a lifetime rating for his Congressional voting record of 83 percent from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee, just swept a total of 63 percent of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31 percent of the vote….In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed – and failed miserably – in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain.

As the campaign moves forward, my colleagues in talk radio (along with program directors, general managers, advertisers and the other segments of our industry) ought to reconsider the one-sided, embittered negativity toward two of our four surviving candidates for President….

South Carolina demonstrates the utter ineffectiveness of concerted efforts by the conservative media elite to derail the campaigns of two popular candidates. Continued efforts in that direction will prove no more effective, and will hurt both our industry and the Republican Party.

In other words, the talk radio jihad against Mac and Huck hasn’t destroyed or even visibly damaged those candidates. But it has damaged, and may help destroy, talk radio.

Michael Medved, the polymathic conservative writer, has worked for the past dozen years as a radio talk-show host. Unlike many of his fellow conservative talk-show hosts, he has not spent the past year and a half in a toxic rage against immigration. Nor has he concluded that John McCain represents a dagger aimed at the heart of the Right.

In a brave post on his blog, Medved posits that McCain’s victory in South Carolina (along with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee) represents a threat not to conservatism but rather to the viability and influence of talk radio, and that the wound is self-inflicted:

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck.

As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.”

A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a lifetime rating for his Congressional voting record of 83 percent from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee, just swept a total of 63 percent of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31 percent of the vote….In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed – and failed miserably – in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain.

As the campaign moves forward, my colleagues in talk radio (along with program directors, general managers, advertisers and the other segments of our industry) ought to reconsider the one-sided, embittered negativity toward two of our four surviving candidates for President….

South Carolina demonstrates the utter ineffectiveness of concerted efforts by the conservative media elite to derail the campaigns of two popular candidates. Continued efforts in that direction will prove no more effective, and will hurt both our industry and the Republican Party.

In other words, the talk radio jihad against Mac and Huck hasn’t destroyed or even visibly damaged those candidates. But it has damaged, and may help destroy, talk radio.

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McCain and Giuliani: Now They Must Fight

In eight days, the Florida primary will either a) bring new life to Rudy Giuliani’s dying campaign, b) become a crucial victory in John McCain’s now-relentless march to the nomination, or c) muddy the muddiest political picture in the GOP’s history still further by handing an unexpected win to Mitt Romney or even Mike Huckabee.

Choices A and B are antagonisms. Giuliani can only win Florida by doing exceptionally well among voters who might otherwise choose McCain. The reverse is true as well. McCain’s rise has been fueled state by state and nationally by the energy that has drained out of the Giuliani candidacy. That needs to continue in Florida.

The candidates and candidacies are going to have to go after each other. For the most part, during this very long year, they have refused to do so. They are fond of each other and they agree with each other on a host of issues. But that was then and this is now. This morning, over e-mail, came a blast from Giuliani’s press shop:

JOHN MCCAIN: NOT A FI$CAL CONSERVATIVE

“Rudy Giuliani is the only fiscal conservative in the race and it’s easy to see why.  John McCain not only voted with the Democrats against the Bush tax cuts twice, he’s voted over 50 times for higher taxes. With a record like that, you can’t tell if John McCain will stand up to the Democrats in Washington who want to raise taxes or stand with them.” — Katie Levinson, Rudy Giuliani Communications Director

The document featured chapter and verse on McCain’s negative votes on tax cuts and his characterization of the Bush 2001 plan as coming at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The logic of the McCain and Giuliani candidacies has always pretty much been the same — a strong leader in the War on Terror who is able to secure the votes of independents. But with Giuliani’s political life on the line, he has no choice but to try to uncouple McCain’s recent converts from the Arizona Republican and send them back Rudy’s way. And McCain will have no choice but to respond — and given the aggressive tone of the Giuliani hit this morning, McCain will surely give as good as he got.

Thus do political friendships collide with political reality.

In eight days, the Florida primary will either a) bring new life to Rudy Giuliani’s dying campaign, b) become a crucial victory in John McCain’s now-relentless march to the nomination, or c) muddy the muddiest political picture in the GOP’s history still further by handing an unexpected win to Mitt Romney or even Mike Huckabee.

Choices A and B are antagonisms. Giuliani can only win Florida by doing exceptionally well among voters who might otherwise choose McCain. The reverse is true as well. McCain’s rise has been fueled state by state and nationally by the energy that has drained out of the Giuliani candidacy. That needs to continue in Florida.

The candidates and candidacies are going to have to go after each other. For the most part, during this very long year, they have refused to do so. They are fond of each other and they agree with each other on a host of issues. But that was then and this is now. This morning, over e-mail, came a blast from Giuliani’s press shop:

JOHN MCCAIN: NOT A FI$CAL CONSERVATIVE

“Rudy Giuliani is the only fiscal conservative in the race and it’s easy to see why.  John McCain not only voted with the Democrats against the Bush tax cuts twice, he’s voted over 50 times for higher taxes. With a record like that, you can’t tell if John McCain will stand up to the Democrats in Washington who want to raise taxes or stand with them.” — Katie Levinson, Rudy Giuliani Communications Director

The document featured chapter and verse on McCain’s negative votes on tax cuts and his characterization of the Bush 2001 plan as coming at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The logic of the McCain and Giuliani candidacies has always pretty much been the same — a strong leader in the War on Terror who is able to secure the votes of independents. But with Giuliani’s political life on the line, he has no choice but to try to uncouple McCain’s recent converts from the Arizona Republican and send them back Rudy’s way. And McCain will have no choice but to respond — and given the aggressive tone of the Giuliani hit this morning, McCain will surely give as good as he got.

Thus do political friendships collide with political reality.

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Primary Fun in the Sun

In Florida, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie heading into the January 29th winner take-all GOP primary. But I would have never known that from talking to people during my trip to Florida last week. That’s because my ambit extended no further than Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton along the Atlantic coast, an area that’s heavily settled by pro-Rudy people from the New York Metropolitan area. Giuliani will do very well in this heavily Jewish area as there are even Democrats who have switched their registration to the GOP to support him. And he has support further south where refugees from Castro and other Latin American thugs are drawn to both Giuliani and McCain. But it’s not clear how well he will do in the other Floridas, such as the central Florida farming areas, the Tampa-Orlando tourism and high-tech corridor, and the northern tier with close ties to the military that stretches from Jacksonville on the Atlantic to Pensacola snuggled up against Alabama on the Gulf Coast. McCain has ties to this northern tier. He trained in Pensacola and his family spent his years of captivity in Jacksonville. Huckabee has a strong network of Christian support on the Florida Panhandle and Romney has a natural affinity with the Republican business community.

Read More

In Florida, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie heading into the January 29th winner take-all GOP primary. But I would have never known that from talking to people during my trip to Florida last week. That’s because my ambit extended no further than Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton along the Atlantic coast, an area that’s heavily settled by pro-Rudy people from the New York Metropolitan area. Giuliani will do very well in this heavily Jewish area as there are even Democrats who have switched their registration to the GOP to support him. And he has support further south where refugees from Castro and other Latin American thugs are drawn to both Giuliani and McCain. But it’s not clear how well he will do in the other Floridas, such as the central Florida farming areas, the Tampa-Orlando tourism and high-tech corridor, and the northern tier with close ties to the military that stretches from Jacksonville on the Atlantic to Pensacola snuggled up against Alabama on the Gulf Coast. McCain has ties to this northern tier. He trained in Pensacola and his family spent his years of captivity in Jacksonville. Huckabee has a strong network of Christian support on the Florida Panhandle and Romney has a natural affinity with the Republican business community.

Romney has sometimes been written off regarding Florida despite the support of Jeb Bush. But in a multi-polar state with 10 major media markets, Romney’s money gives him an important advantage in an election where marked support for four strong candidates means that it’s possible to take all of Florida’s bounty of delegates which as little as 30 percent of the vote. And that’s where the Giuliani strategies come in. Absentee mail balloting began two weeks ago and by some estimates, almost half of all votes will have been cast by primary day. First and foremost Giuliani who, first began contacting voters here in the summer of 2007, has been working Florida at the cost of his national poll standing, is counting on winning the absentee balloting. He concludes every appearance, every rally, every speech with the cry of “let’s go vote.” Another part of his strategy is to target specific issues that appeal to the non-New Yorkers. Besides talking tough on Castro, he’s detailed plans for 1) a national disaster fund, a concept that appeals to a state that’s been so hard hit by hurricanes and 2) an expansion of the space program.

But for all that the election might well come down to the economy. Overall Florida is teetering on the edge of recession. Home sales fell about 20 percent nationally in 2007, but 30 percent in Florida where home prices decline by 10 percent compared to the three percent nationally. Retails sales, a proxy for consumer spending dropped 5 percent in the state last year and even more sharply in some areas. In Pompano, where I was staying and even in tony Boca, there are numerous empty stores. In one, previously very successful Pompano mall, 30 percent of the retail space is now unoccupied with, I’m told scant prospect of being rented out during this cycle. Housing wise, the local brokers have their heads in their hands as the inventory of condos that can’t be moved pile up and prices sink further.

The former Massachusetts Governor and New Yorker mayor are the two who have spoken with the most authority and depth on the economy. Romney who won Michigan with pie in the sky rhetoric finally has an issue with the economy where he comes off as genuine. Giuliani has outlined a well thought out tax-cutting agenda for dealing with Global competition. But from my conversations, and what I read and saw neither has been able to speak to the effects of the bursting the mortgage asset bubble which in turn has sharply reduced consumption. It’s reasonably likely, unforeseen events aside, that the candidate best able to speak to that issue over the next nine days will win Florida and the momentum need to go on to Super Tuesday.

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Bookshelf

• Distrust of eloquence has long been a chronic condition among Americans—or maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten how to be eloquent. A land whose political leaders were capable once upon a time of unblinkingly uttering phrases like “the mystic chords of memory” and “a date which will live in infamy” can surely do better than Mike Huckabee. On the other hand, as Denis Donoghue, the author of On Eloquence (Yale, 199 pp., $27.50), points out, there are good reasons why we tend to distrust eloquent politicians: “The standard argument against eloquence is that it is morally indifferent, it shows one’s determination to speak vividly, whether what one is saying is true or false.” But Donoghue, whose new book is a brief in defense of literary eloquence, makes a further point worthy of careful consideration:

A speech or an essay may be eloquent, but if it is, the eloquence is incidental to its aim. Eloquence, as distinct from rhetoric, has no aim: it is a play of words or other expressive means. It is a gift to be enjoyed in appreciation and practice. The main attribute of eloquence is gratuitousness: its place in the world is to be without place or function, its mode is to be intrinsic. Like beauty, it claims only the privilege of being a grace note in the culture that permits it . . . . Eloquence therefore is exempt—or should be—from the imputations that hang over rhetorical acts and consequences. It puts rhetoric to shame—persuasion, propaganda, nudging, forcing—for its vulgarity of purpose, its forensic disgusts. Eloquence does not kill people.

Of such elegantly drawn distinctions is this fetchingly written essay made.

That it should be necessary to defend eloquence is, of course, a sign of the times. Though Donoghue is a professor of literature, he clearly despairs for his profession, having noted in recent years that most of his colleagues now care more for ideology (“The politics of Yeats’s last poems—was he a Fascist?”) than such lesser qualities as “aesthetic finesse, beauty, eloquence, style, form, imagination, fiction, the architecture of a sentence, the bearing of rhyme, pleasure.” In On Eloquence, by contrast, he revels in all these things, demonstrating how great literature acquires much of its force from the beauty of its expression.

Though Donoghue is an unabashed highbrow, he is quick to point out that eloquence does not inhere solely in aristocratic utterance. In a list of “eloquent moments” that have stuck permanently in his mind, he cites I coulda bin a contender and You talkin’ to me alongside Those are pearls that were his eyes and Thou art indeed just, Lord if I contend with thee. Eloquence, he further points out, is not merely a matter of honeyed words but of well-calculated silences, of crisply pointed understatement as well as operatic expansiveness.

In between these trenchant observations, Donoghue dishes up more than enough memorable passages from the masters to make us long for him to edit a dictionary of quotations. Rarely have I read a more charming teaser for an unwritten book than the end of the second chapter of On Eloquence:

Some years ago I thought of compiling an anthology, a commonplace book, in which every chosen item would drive readers into an altitudo of pleasure—to think that there could be such eloquence, sentences, cadences, in what seems otherwise an ordinary world . . . . Some of the items I quote with delight in the present book would have found a place in that one.

Get to it, man!

• Distrust of eloquence has long been a chronic condition among Americans—or maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten how to be eloquent. A land whose political leaders were capable once upon a time of unblinkingly uttering phrases like “the mystic chords of memory” and “a date which will live in infamy” can surely do better than Mike Huckabee. On the other hand, as Denis Donoghue, the author of On Eloquence (Yale, 199 pp., $27.50), points out, there are good reasons why we tend to distrust eloquent politicians: “The standard argument against eloquence is that it is morally indifferent, it shows one’s determination to speak vividly, whether what one is saying is true or false.” But Donoghue, whose new book is a brief in defense of literary eloquence, makes a further point worthy of careful consideration:

A speech or an essay may be eloquent, but if it is, the eloquence is incidental to its aim. Eloquence, as distinct from rhetoric, has no aim: it is a play of words or other expressive means. It is a gift to be enjoyed in appreciation and practice. The main attribute of eloquence is gratuitousness: its place in the world is to be without place or function, its mode is to be intrinsic. Like beauty, it claims only the privilege of being a grace note in the culture that permits it . . . . Eloquence therefore is exempt—or should be—from the imputations that hang over rhetorical acts and consequences. It puts rhetoric to shame—persuasion, propaganda, nudging, forcing—for its vulgarity of purpose, its forensic disgusts. Eloquence does not kill people.

Of such elegantly drawn distinctions is this fetchingly written essay made.

That it should be necessary to defend eloquence is, of course, a sign of the times. Though Donoghue is a professor of literature, he clearly despairs for his profession, having noted in recent years that most of his colleagues now care more for ideology (“The politics of Yeats’s last poems—was he a Fascist?”) than such lesser qualities as “aesthetic finesse, beauty, eloquence, style, form, imagination, fiction, the architecture of a sentence, the bearing of rhyme, pleasure.” In On Eloquence, by contrast, he revels in all these things, demonstrating how great literature acquires much of its force from the beauty of its expression.

Though Donoghue is an unabashed highbrow, he is quick to point out that eloquence does not inhere solely in aristocratic utterance. In a list of “eloquent moments” that have stuck permanently in his mind, he cites I coulda bin a contender and You talkin’ to me alongside Those are pearls that were his eyes and Thou art indeed just, Lord if I contend with thee. Eloquence, he further points out, is not merely a matter of honeyed words but of well-calculated silences, of crisply pointed understatement as well as operatic expansiveness.

In between these trenchant observations, Donoghue dishes up more than enough memorable passages from the masters to make us long for him to edit a dictionary of quotations. Rarely have I read a more charming teaser for an unwritten book than the end of the second chapter of On Eloquence:

Some years ago I thought of compiling an anthology, a commonplace book, in which every chosen item would drive readers into an altitudo of pleasure—to think that there could be such eloquence, sentences, cadences, in what seems otherwise an ordinary world . . . . Some of the items I quote with delight in the present book would have found a place in that one.

Get to it, man!

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Re: Romney Wins Nevada

Abe, it’s hard to imagine Mitt Romney will get much from Nevada, because a) everybody else effectively ceded it to him six months ago; b) as it is a caucus state, participation numbers will be staggeringly low, like 4 or 5 percent of the possible turnout; and c) the state’s 10 percent Mormon population, which, according to Jim Geraghty, has turned out 94 percent for Romney. (Forget Mike Huckabee’s claim on evangelicals; a number like that suggests Romney is this year’s unqualified king of identity politics.) The interesting aspect of all this is that Nevada may take on a far greater degree of significance in the fall, because it went for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 by small margins, indicating its five electoral votes might be up for grabs in a close election. Given the nature of the electoral map and the probable loss to the GOP of Ohio — which it won in the past two races — the GOP cannot afford to lose even those five Nevada electors.

Abe, it’s hard to imagine Mitt Romney will get much from Nevada, because a) everybody else effectively ceded it to him six months ago; b) as it is a caucus state, participation numbers will be staggeringly low, like 4 or 5 percent of the possible turnout; and c) the state’s 10 percent Mormon population, which, according to Jim Geraghty, has turned out 94 percent for Romney. (Forget Mike Huckabee’s claim on evangelicals; a number like that suggests Romney is this year’s unqualified king of identity politics.) The interesting aspect of all this is that Nevada may take on a far greater degree of significance in the fall, because it went for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 by small margins, indicating its five electoral votes might be up for grabs in a close election. Given the nature of the electoral map and the probable loss to the GOP of Ohio — which it won in the past two races — the GOP cannot afford to lose even those five Nevada electors.

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Huckabee’s Further Flip-Flopping

According to The Hill,

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has reversed his position on a federal ban aimed at workplace smoking and now believes the issue should be addressed by state and local governments. The about-face is apparent in a Huckabee campaign statement, sent to The Hill Tuesday evening in response to questions about the smoking ban proposal. It clashes with the stance Huckabee has taken during his race for the White House and with his record as governor of Arkansas, when he signed into law a measure prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places. At an August 2007 forum on cancer hosted by cyclist and activist Lance Armstrong and moderated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Huckabee said he supported a federal smoking ban. “If you are president in 2009 and Congress brings you a bill to outlaw smoking nationwide in public places, would you sign it?” Matthews asked. “I would, certainly would. In fact, I would, just like I did as governor of Arkansas, I think there should be no smoking in any indoor area where people have to work,” Huckabee responded, triggering applause from the crowd.

This comes in the aftermath of Huckabee’s head-snapping change on immigration. Only a few weeks after he lectured the other candidates about the virtues of providing student loans to children of illegal immigrants, he proudly accepted the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, a group fiercely critical of illegal immigrants. Huckabee then adapted an immigration plan that is very much at odds with his past position.

It also comes in the wake of Huckabee’s declaration that his conscience would not allow him to run advertisements critical of Mitt Romney in Iowa—a declaration, it’s worth pointing out, he made at a press conference in which he revealed to reporters the ad he refused to run, thereby ensuring it would get widespread attention. But Huckabee’s conscience seems to have gone on sabbatical the other day, when he responded to Fred Thompson’s substantive criticisms of his record this way: “Fred Thompson talks about putting America first, and yet he’s the one who is a registered foreign agent, lobbied for foreign countries, was in a law firm that did lobbying work for Libya. I certainly wouldn’t put my name on something like that.”

Such things might be dismissed as par for the political course, except that Huckabee, who once favored quarantining AIDS patients but now denies it, has made a virtue out of his supposed steadfastness. “You are not going to find moments on YouTube of me saying something different about the sanctity of life today than I said ten years ago, ten minutes ago, or fifty years ago,” Huckabee has said, referring to footage of Governor Romney declaring his support for abortion rights, a position he later changed. “You are not going to find something in YouTube where I said something completely different about gun ownership and the second amendment than I did last week, ten weeks ago, ten years go.”

Those words seem far less compelling than they once did. What we are finding is that Huckabee, who has long believed in religious conversions, appears to have a new-found affinity for political ones.

According to The Hill,

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has reversed his position on a federal ban aimed at workplace smoking and now believes the issue should be addressed by state and local governments. The about-face is apparent in a Huckabee campaign statement, sent to The Hill Tuesday evening in response to questions about the smoking ban proposal. It clashes with the stance Huckabee has taken during his race for the White House and with his record as governor of Arkansas, when he signed into law a measure prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places. At an August 2007 forum on cancer hosted by cyclist and activist Lance Armstrong and moderated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Huckabee said he supported a federal smoking ban. “If you are president in 2009 and Congress brings you a bill to outlaw smoking nationwide in public places, would you sign it?” Matthews asked. “I would, certainly would. In fact, I would, just like I did as governor of Arkansas, I think there should be no smoking in any indoor area where people have to work,” Huckabee responded, triggering applause from the crowd.

This comes in the aftermath of Huckabee’s head-snapping change on immigration. Only a few weeks after he lectured the other candidates about the virtues of providing student loans to children of illegal immigrants, he proudly accepted the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, a group fiercely critical of illegal immigrants. Huckabee then adapted an immigration plan that is very much at odds with his past position.

It also comes in the wake of Huckabee’s declaration that his conscience would not allow him to run advertisements critical of Mitt Romney in Iowa—a declaration, it’s worth pointing out, he made at a press conference in which he revealed to reporters the ad he refused to run, thereby ensuring it would get widespread attention. But Huckabee’s conscience seems to have gone on sabbatical the other day, when he responded to Fred Thompson’s substantive criticisms of his record this way: “Fred Thompson talks about putting America first, and yet he’s the one who is a registered foreign agent, lobbied for foreign countries, was in a law firm that did lobbying work for Libya. I certainly wouldn’t put my name on something like that.”

Such things might be dismissed as par for the political course, except that Huckabee, who once favored quarantining AIDS patients but now denies it, has made a virtue out of his supposed steadfastness. “You are not going to find moments on YouTube of me saying something different about the sanctity of life today than I said ten years ago, ten minutes ago, or fifty years ago,” Huckabee has said, referring to footage of Governor Romney declaring his support for abortion rights, a position he later changed. “You are not going to find something in YouTube where I said something completely different about gun ownership and the second amendment than I did last week, ten weeks ago, ten years go.”

Those words seem far less compelling than they once did. What we are finding is that Huckabee, who has long believed in religious conversions, appears to have a new-found affinity for political ones.

Read Less




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