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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Huckabee Resurgence

What a difference a poll makes.

In one day, Mike Huckabee jumped from a crowded second/third tier to fringe first tier status. In one day, he jumped from 20-1 to 15-1 in The Line. In one day, Mike Huckabee made the first best case to be the "conservative alternative."

The conservative alternative is what's missing from the Republican top tier. Mitt Romney has inconsistencies on his conservative resume. Rudy Giuliani is socially liberal and doesn't apologize for it. John McCain has worked with many-a-Democrat to pass bills. Fred Thompson is unannounced and has a spotty conservative record.

The shortcomings of those four men have always left room for a tried and true conservative candidate to join them. While each of those men have tried to make cases that they are the most conservative and loyal to Republican values, there have been a group of men below them who have undoubted conservative records. If any of these men could establish themselves as an alternative to the Big Four, money and support would steadily grow.

California Congressman Duncan Hunter, endorsed by Ann Coulter, was one of these men, but without name recognition and any way to raise competitive funds, he never had a chance. Ditto to Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Congressman, and former Minnesota governor and cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson, who dropped out earlier this week.

Ron Paul, of course, is the Republican that fiscal conservatives are fawning over, not to mention Democrats, and by extension, the media. His debate style, not to mention his much publicized cash on hand after the second quarter, made him a legitimate sensation in the Republican Party. Unfortunately for Paul, three things are continually forgotten when people get excited about his candidacy. First, his blatant hatred for the war in Iraq is still unpopular in the party. Second, his stinging comments towards President Bush's administration won't work in the primary, as 60-70% of Republicans still support the President. Third, while his fan base is undoubtedly passionate and will stick up for him until the cows come home, in the end they only get one vote each. Just because you like your candidate more than other people like theirs does not mean your vote carries more weight. Paul is still low single digits in state and national polls. He will not get the nomination.

For a while, it seemed as if Senator Sam Brownback had the best chance to join the top tier. As the only Senator outside of the Big Four, Brownback had the unique combination of foreign policy experience, voting on national issues, as well as being a devout and passionate social conservative his entire career. Moreover, Kansas' proximity to Iowa gave him a nice base to win the first caucus of the primary season. The Ames Iowa Straw Poll was his chance to prove that he was the conservative alternative the party had been waiting for.

But someone else took the mantle.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mike Huckabee. Here's what I wrote on June 7th, when I had him ranked 7th on my Republican Power Rankings.

"His authenticity impresses me. He seems genuine, he seems bright, he seems southern, he seems religious, he seems conservative, and he speaks articulately and honestly. Indeed, he seems like a great candidate for the GOP. So why isn't he higher? The man can't fundraise, finishing way back with only half a mil in the first quarter."

His second quarter wasn't much better, raising only about 750k.

However, his chief weakness, his inability to fundraise with Giuliani and Romney sucking up all the oxygen in the arena, might not be as weak anymore. His strong and overachieving second place showing in the Iowa Straw Poll has all but given him the conservative alternative label. In all likelihood, this victory puts him in line for more money and national name recognition. This of course greatly helps Huckabee across the country, but also shows Iowa voters who their fellow Iowans are supporting, using August as a reflection point come January. A Huckabee top two showing in January's Iowa caucus is necessary for a Huckabee nomination.

Finally, what remains to be seen is how much this second place finish helps him. Of course it'll help him, but what kind of boost will it be to his fundraising and poll numbers? I've moved him from 20-1 to 15-1... but if I see some Iowa and national polls consistently showing him in the top 4, he'll see 12-1 or 10-1 in no time. How will the Republican voters of the country respond?

We'll see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I still don't see a winnable candidate coming out of the Iowa straw. Maaaaybe Huckabee. At least he's not a Mormon or got somebody's veins between his teeth. But still where's he been all these years? What has he ever stood up for?

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