Ross says of the possible Romney combeack:
If he seems viable, he’ll have Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, and the rest of talk radio in his corner.
This is mostly right, with one notable exception. For some reason, Michael Medved has been going out of his way to take Huckabee’s side over the past few months, and he was an early proponent of the idea that Huckabee could unify the party better than others. In the wake of Ames, many people saw Huckabee’s second place finish as a kind of amusing curiosity, but Medved managed to see something early on that the rest of us ignored.
Five months ago, Medved saw something different about Huckabee:
First, his distinctly blue-collar, proudly working class background will help to destroy the notion that Republicans are the party of Wall Street and the country club.
But the Republicans, at least at the level of leadership and policymaking, really are that party, and what they seem to fear is that Huckabee will not just destroy this perception but also threaten to change the priorities of the party in ways disadvantageous to “Wall Street and the country club” (i.e., corporate interests). The more I think about it, the more wrong I think they are about Huckabee, which makes his “populism” just so much sympathising with American workers while doing nothing at all for them. Call it Potemkin Sam’s Club Republicanism.
Medved saw Huckabee’s background as an electoral asset:
The old Democratic class warfare tactics simply won’t work against Huckabee—his personal style and background make it impossible to associate him with some privileged elite.
Yet to listen to The Wall Street Journal, you’d think that Huckabee was using class warfare tactics. The problem that the GOP higher-ups seem to be having with the man is that he isn’t associated with their privileged elite, at least not directly. What makes Huckabee a valuable general election candidate are the very things that make him hateful to large parts of the GOP and movement leadership, but these general election assets are the things that ought to recommend him to them.
More remarkably, Medved saw Huckabee as the perfect candidate to shore up the right against a disaffected protest candidate:
With a Huckabee candidacy, on the other hand, a self-righteous anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-globalism fringe campaign becomes less powerful (and less necessary, for that matter). Those who worry that international conspirators are subverting American sovereignty as part of some CFR or Neo-Con conspiracy will feel far less fearful of Huckabee than of any other major candidate.
So the candidate who has praised NAFTA, called opponents of his pro-immigration bills racists and un-Christian, and claims to take foreign policy cues from Richard Haass and Frank Gaffney (when he isn’t declaring his love for Charles Krauthammer) is the one who will tamp down an anti-immigration and anti-globalist third party candidate who dislikes the influence of the CFR and neocons? If I had read this before the anti-Huckabee reaction, I would have laughed (it’s still pretty bizarre), but when I see Huckabee embracing Gilchrist and a hard anti-amnesty line and when I see him being painted as some protectionist proponent of national autarchy this statement is no longer quite so bizarre.
One thing that Medved didn’t foresee was the tremendous backlash against the candidate that was coming:
And it’s tough for anyone, from any faction in the party, to feel mad at Mike Huckabee.
David Brooks made a similar claim later, at which I duly scoffed, but there had to be some reason why both of them saw Huckabee as a unifying figure in the GOP where everyone else saw a radioactive, coalition-destroying candidate. As it turns out, both of them were simply wrong about the Republican reaction to Huckabee, but what is more difficult is trying to understand why the reaction is as ferocious as it has been. I’ve floated the “Huckabee is the social conservatives’ revenge” idea, as well as the “economic populist” angle and the “he embarrassingly reminds the GOP of the Bush administration that they have propped up” view, and more recently suggested that Huckabee is just too Southern and low-class for the GOP establishment to accept, and there is something to all of these explanations. But any one by itself or all of them together still fail to explain fully the hostility.
Medved also had this amusing prediction:
The big negatives the press will no doubt begin to attach to the surging Huckabee campaign involve the notion that he’s just too religious (and doesn’t believe in undirected, random Darwinism) and that he’s got no experience in foreign policy.
Yet the main parts of ”the press” making these sorts of arguments are conservative outlets and pundits. It is Republican leaders who are extremely worried about his alleged excessive religiosity, his creationism and his lack of foreign policy experience. For their own reasons, mainstream media outlets continue mostly to lavish praise on Huckabee. Yes, they have begun digging into his ethics record and decisions as governor, but by and large it is not the mainstream media that want to annihilate him (at least not yet)–that is one of the conservative media’s obsessions at present.
As I’ve said before, I know the reasons why I, as a paleo, don’t like Huckabee and wouldn’t want him as President, but these are all the reasons why Bush voters should like him. If you liked NCLB, you’ll love a candidate who receives the endorsement of the New Hampshire NEA. The common complaint against Huckabee is that he isn’t really conservative, or not conservative enough, and I would agree that he isn’t by my standards, but by this standard now being applied to Huckabee Bush should never have passed muster, either. The self-exculpatory explanation from conservatives who supported Bush in both elections was that they either “always” knew that Bush wasn’t really conservative but were being pragmatic (lesser of two evils, yadda yadda yadda) or they realised too late that Bush wasn’t really governing as a conservative. The new story about Huckabee is that he is so un-conservative that he isn’t even as conservative as Bush, whom they now reject as non-conservative. What seems to be troubling these establishment critics of Huckabee is that he is no less conservative than Bush, and may be more so in some respects, but all of a sudden they have discovered a deep wellspring of uncompromising principle that does not allow them to tolerate Huckabee, even as they have cheered on Bush for seven years. This is an almost Romneyesque discovery of first principles in its novelty, and it is a bit hard to take seriously if you have been opposed to Bush from the beginning.