Mike Huckabee’s sort-of-meteoric rise continues, as Newsweek now has him running away with the Iowa caucuses. So is Huckabee becoming the phenomenon of 2008, as Howard Dean was in 2004?
There are some superficial similarities. Dean and Huckabee are (or were) relatively little-known governors of small states. Each appeals to an important part of his party’s base on issues that other candidates have skirted, or on which they are at least less rabid. So is it likely that Huckabee will take off as Dean did, before his collapse in, coincidentally, Iowa?
I doubt it, for several reasons. First, while Huckabee is doing very well in Iowa and surprisingly well in national polls, he is second tier in almost all of the early primary states other than Iowa. In the current RealClear Politics standings, he is a distant fourth in New Hampshire, barely on the charts in Michigan, nowhere in Nevada, and lagging badly in Florida. Granted, he is competitive in South Carolina. But as actual returns begin to come in, attention will focus on the candidates who win. Outside of Iowa, that’s unlikely to be Huckabee.
Second, Howard Dean’s special genius–or, more likely, Joe Trippi’s–was fundraising on the internet. So far, Huckabee has shown little ability to raise money, on the internet or elsewhere.
Third, and most important, there are severe limitations on Huckabee’s appeal to Republican voters. Howard Dean made his name as an antiwar candidate, but his other positions were also reliably liberal. Huckabee’s record, on the other hand, is mixed. On fundamental issues like taxes and immigration his record is not at all conservative, and, not only does he have zero experience in foreign policy, his comments on security issues have been less than reassuring. As Republican voters learn more about Huckabee, most of them will like him less, not more.
Of course, this evaluation omits one important factor: Huckabee is an infinitely more skilled politician, and more likable guy, than Howard Dean. That gives him a fighting chance. But whether it will be enough to carry him anywhere near the nomination is another story.
UPDATE: A vigorous debate is going on in the comments, with most Forum participants agreeing with our view of Huckabee. Check it out.
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