THE PLANK DECEMBER 6, 2007
On the WaPo politics blog, Chris Cillizza is asking whether Huckabee is the Democrats' worst nightmare: What if he can tie up the socially conservative, evangelical base while still appealing to independents with his authenticity and his economic populism? In Cillizza's estimation, "[t]here are clearly lines of attack available to Democrats if Huckabee becomes the nominee. But the current trepidation about that prospect speaks to just how much of an unknown variable Huckabee represents in the presidential race."
That's right, Democrats are scared of what they don't know. But a few hours of digging up info about Huck should go a long way toward assuaging those fears. As Jon Chait explained this week, Huckabee's tax plan is totally nonsensical and completely impractical. But Jon didn't even think it necessary to add that, in a general election, it would also be political suicide--as most 30 percent tax hikes on groceries, medicine, gasoline, houses, and other goods used by middle class Americans tend to be. As the Wall Street Journal put it, "[t]he fair tax would offer a bull's-eye for Democrats"--one which has already proved an excellent election issue for Dems in South Carolina.
Nor will voters be totally comfortable with someone who doesn't deign to spell "Musharraf" correctly on the national security page of his official website. Or who lays out his strategy for the War on Terror by explaining that, "[d]uring the Cold War, we had hawks and doves, but this new war requires us to be a phoenix." Or someone who didn't even know about the game-changing National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuke program until a journalist mentioned it the next day. These are only examples, but they point to a serious, exploitable weakness.
Beyond that, there are the issues of corruption, the reputation as a big spender, the coddling of rapists, Huckabee's threadbare campaign organization, and the fact that Huckabee's nomination would set off an internecine war within the Republican Party, as establishment conservatives turn against their tax-raising, big-spending, dictator-coddling, Liberal Evangelical apostate of a nominee.
Democratic strategists should be salivating over the prospect of a Huckabee candidacy, not afraid of it. To paraphrase Karl Rove mulling a possible Howard Dean nomination in 2004: Go ahead, send us that one. I dare you.