It appears Mike Huckabee will finish a dismal third in Michigan. One can blame his showing on an absence of funds, but he has been enjoying a remarkable free media ride since mid-December, and if he had any strength left, we would have seen evidence of it tonight.
Instead, what we are seeing is yet more evidence that the Republican Party is not in the grip of the Religious Right. That has been a myth organized political evangelicals have been eager to promote and Democratic and Republican elites have, in gullibility, accepted.
Yet here we have Huckabee — the most attractive and least divisive Christian political leader we have ever seen — failing to make a mark in Michigan, where some 40 percent of GOP voters describe themselves as evangelical. It turns out that evangelicals, like Michigan union members, don’t vote as a bloc.
Christian activists are estimated to be around 20 percent of the GOP base. As a result, national party leaders have to pay attention to them. Going to war against the Republican evangelicals, as Northeastern liberal Republican governors Bill Weld and Christie Todd Whitman once did, has always been a vain and and unnecessary gesture. Vain, because standing up to the Religious Right always wins applause at GOP high-dollar fundraisers, and unnecessary, because the Religious Right doesn’t exercise a veto over GOP policy.
Huckabee will catch a final breeze in South Carolina, but the “Christian” phase of the GOP primary really comes to an end tonight. But don’t worry. Experts at the Aspen Institute and other centers of the good and great will talk all summer about how the GOP has to free itself from the influence of
the Religious Right.