Huckabee's Kryptonite

by | October 23, 2007

  Everyone (including Chuck Norris) seems to be getting very excited about Mike Huckabee--and with good reason. The guy is engaging, funny, and charismatic; he's also a (former) governor from a southern state. When Noam Scheiber predicted on this blog a few months ago that Huckabee's second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll meant that he--Huckabee--had finally arrived, I was skeptical. But it looks like Noam was right, and if the latest polls are any indication, Huckabee has a good shot at winning Iowa. Moreover, a Republican advising a rival campaign told me recently that he thought Huckabee could be the GOP's best bet to beat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Clearly, this is the governor's moment.

And yet, reading Amy Sullivan's excellent piece in Time today, I was reminded that not only is Huckabee a preacher, but he also enjoys referring to abortions in this country as a "holocaust."

Now, it's certainly true that Bush's appeal to "values voters" helped him win re-election. And I agree with people like Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat who argue that the GOP's future lies not with its libertarian wing, but rather in appealing to social conservatives and the middle-class.

However, this is not that conservative a country. And the last few years (where Democrats, too, have decided they can run as far left as they want on economic issues as long as they stay "family friendly") have tended to obscure the fact that there is a fragile and consistent pro-choice majority in this country. Moreover, we may be a religious nation, but in the final analysis I think it's highly unlikely that we are going to elect a president who frequently appears to be giving sermons, not speeches. Huckabee is an exciting figure, and I understand why grassroots voters and the media adore him. But I just don't think it's realistic to believe that he'll be the next president.

 --Isaac Chotiner 

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