Why Michigan’s evangelicals abandoned Huck is the inetersting question. The most likely explanation is that the reality of Huck’s policies caught up with his funny, winsome style. ~Hugh Hewitt
Here Hewitt is repeating the sort of line we frequently hear about Huckabee, whether it is coming from a friendly or hostile source. Going into the primary yesterday, quite a few observers assumed that Huckabee’s “populism” would help him, and it is this same “populism” that makes Huckabee persona non grata to the institutional movement types, and there are these references to Huckabee’s “policies” that I have never been able to understand. Aside from the FairTax and his cut-and-paste immigration plan, Huckabee doesn’t have any domestic policies. That is a legitimate reason to question his preparedness and oppose his candidacy, but it does not explain how his “policies” could have caught up to him in Michigan. Here’s the thing: Huckabee is a “compassionate conservative,” which by my lights means that he’s pretty far to the left of me such that I have no problem regarding him as someone as liberal as Bush, but based on his current campaign and even based on his record in Arkansas he’s still not quite a “pro-life Democrat.” More to the point, if Huckabee is a “pro-life Democrat,” Romney would have to be declared a Democrat as well based on his recent display in Michigan.
Voters did not suddenly discover Huckabee’s great scheme to nationalise health care (or whatever it is that people think Huckabee stands for) and turn away from him. Huckabee’s great health care insight is that we should eat smaller portions of healthier food, and maybe stop smoking. Not necessarily bad ideas, but they are not policy proposals. Outside of a narrow range of supporters tied into the church and homeschooling networks, plus a few others, Huckabee got little support because he had little money with which to advertise and spent little time advertising there. He went on the air in Michigan less than a week before the vote, so he mainly retained those voters who had heard about him through other means. What his Michigan ads said was: “I’m a tax-cutter, and I remind you of a working man and not a CEO.” What Huckabee was offering was a symbolic repudiation of corporate managers and…tax cuts. Romney promised a huge infusion of government spending. The two who actually proposed interventionist policies of various kinds (whether they included deregulation or more regulation) won the race and finished second, while the one running as the relatively more laissez-faire candidate came in third. So, in a sense, Huckabee’s limited number of policies may have caught up with him, but that would imply that Michigan voters rewarded the two most statist candidates in the race and punished the more simple anti-tax candidate. Of course Hewitt will keep perpetuating the myth of Huckabee the “pro-life Democrat” because he is a Romney shill, but what is remarkable is how much currency this notion has gained in just a couple months.