Jonathan Chait

Huckabee Hates Romney. Or Something.

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[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner]

Now that 2011 is upon us, expect to see a whole range of stories based on unfounded speculation about who will or will not run for president, and why. (Okay, fine, these stories were appearing before the beginning of the year). Today's entry, courtesy of Politico, is truly something to behold--a superb example of the genre. The article is titled 'Huckabee Throws a Mitt Fit' and begins thusly:

Mike Huckabee may be especially tempted to run in 2012 by a lingering feud between him and Mitt Romney, a severe hangover from the 2008 campaign that has created a lasting and bitter rift between the two, Republicans who know both men say.

Okay, so Huckabee hasn't quite thrown a "Mitt fit" yet,  but according to the article he very well might. What is the evidence for this theory? The writer claims that "Republicans" who know both men are behind the story. The first source quoted in the article says the following:

“[Huckabee] hates Mitt, and his goal in Iowa last time was to stop him,” said one prominent Republican, who’s known both men for years. “If he sees an opportunity to cut Mitt off [during the nominating process], he will take it.”

This doesn't really suggest that Huckabee would enter the race to stop Romney. Indeed, in 2008, Huckabee was already running when, according to this person, he tried to stop Romney. In the second part of the quote, it isn't even clear whether the source is saying that if Huckabee runs, he'll try to stop Mitt (almost a tautology, since only one man can win the nomination), or whether Huckabee would jump in just to stop Romney.

The second source, Ed Rollins, admits that Huckabee does not like Romney, but still does not go along with the reporter's thesis:

Ed Rollins, a national GOP strategist who ran Huckabee’s 2008 effort, recalled the “personal animosity” that the former Arkansas governor felt for Romney, citing the rawness over the negative campaign Romney ran as Huckabee started surging as the dark horse with no money or national establishment support in Iowa in January 2008.

“I don't think he particularly likes Romney,” Rollins said, although the strategist insisted Huckabee “doesn’t’ think much about Romney or Palin” and would only run if he believes the time is right. “I don't think he felt that Romney had a real core of convictions.”

The third source directly denies the scenario, and seems to find it ridiculous. Then the reporter turns to David Yepsen, a political analyst in Iowa, who writes, "If he's not a candidate, he's arguably more of a threat to Romney sitting on the [sidelines],” Yepsen said. “I think he could really be needling Romney a lot and hurting Romney with a lot of [social conservatives and religious voters] he needs to attract." Okay, so Huckabee could stop Romney even without jumping in. This rather contradicts the point of the piece. And then....and then nothing. That's it. This story is a fine example of how not to write about politics.

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