Now that the idea of an anti-Romney McCain-Huckabee alliance is fast becoming conventional wisdom, it is worth noting that many of the institutional movement conservatives and party leaders shot themselves in the foot with their intense hostility to Huckabee and everything he represented. When the GOP establishment needed to rally evangelicals and social conservatives to stop McCain, they could not throw their weight behind Huckabee, whom they had already denounced in the harshest terms, and they could not expect the favourite candidate of many movement conservatives to peel off supporters from Huckabee after he had tried to discredit Huckabee. Incredibly, the same movement that just six months ago was powerfully opposed to McCain because of the immigration bill has, as I said earlier, spent much of its time for the past month vilifying the one candidate who could have checked McCain’s ambitions. Now that they need to rebuild an alliance between the Republican center and right to replicate the success of Bush in 2000 to thwart McCain, they find that they have instead surprisingly driven many voters on the right into a tactical alliance with McCain and his “moderates.” The (mostly baseless) antipathy to Huckabee on trade and economics–the opposition to his insubstantial ”populism”–and the exaggerated complaints about his fiscal liberalism when compared to the largely kid-glove treatment of Romney’s equally undesirable interventionist record helped to drive a wedge between large parts of the social and economic conservative factions that made it unlikely that Romney voters would vote tactically for Huckabee. Furthermore, because the GOP has wedded itself so fully and blindly to the war in Iraq and McCain is on the side of a majority of Republicans on this question, a McCain candidacy protected by a tacit alliance with Huckabee becomes very hard to stop.
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