Thanks, Huck

Some think that the Republican Presidential field is weak this year; Scott made a comment to that effect a few days ago. I am not yet prepared to go along with that assessment. It remains to be seen who emerges from the pack and how he or she does against President Obama. If the GOP wins next year, no one will remember who the third and fourth best candidates were, or whether they were strong or weak.
I will say, however, that at this point it seems that no one candidate combines all of the traits we look for in a favorite. To me, Mike Huckabee has been a constant reminder of this fact. In my opinion, Huckabee is a hugely talented politician–the most talented who has come along since Bill Clinton. He is a genius of empathy and has a natural gift for connecting with voters of most stripes.
Unfortunately, on the issues I don’t trust him at all. He is a populist, not a mainstream conservative, and on the economy his instincts are often terrible. I am not sure whether those who call Huckabee a pro-life Democrat are correct, but he hasn’t done anything to rule out that characterization. So I was delighted to learn a few minutes ago that Huckabee has decided not to run in 2012.
Huckabee’s sitting out the race simplifies the field considerably. All of the significant candidates who are either in the race or likely to enter it are, in my view, solid conservatives with mainstream views on the economy. (I do not consider Ron Paul to be mainstream, but neither do I consider him a significant candidate.) There is some danger, perhaps, that Rick Santorum can pick up Huckabee’s mantle and steer the campaign toward the social issues, but Santorum lacks Huckabee’s political skill–otherwise, he would still be in the Senate–and, in my view, he does not have the same potential to disrupt the race. So I think we can count on the eventual nominee making the Democrats’ economic blunders and fiscal irrresponsibility the centerpiece of his or her campaign, as they should be.
So, thank you Mike Huckabee: by not running, you have eliminated the one significant risk that the 2012 campaign would be something other than a referendum on the Democrats’ stewardship of the economy and the federal budget. Now, may the best man–or woman–win. And in the meantime, maybe you could give Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty some empathy lessons.

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