Will the Republican party be damaged by infighting when it should be concerned with putting its best foot forward?
With Fred Thompson’s campaign rapidly fading into irrelevance, the candidate and his staff are going all out to damage their main competitior for conservative votes, Mike Huckabee. As things stand in the national polls, Huckabee is best described as first among equals, and he is beginning to look like a very viable candidate. But could Thompson’s scorched earth tactics turn off enough Republicans to make Huckabee damaged goods? Could Huckabee end up being the nominee who can’t rally the part of the base that thinks he’s a pro-amnesty, rapist-pardoning, tax loving liberal?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that this may be the case. Some of Thompson’s most vocal supporters already believe that Huckabee is more Antichrist than Christian. They decry his record as governor or Arkansas in terms that seem more appropriate for a bitterly contested general election than the early stages of the party contest. The campaign isn’t making an issue of the infamous Wayne Dumond case, but Thompson’s supporters are. Even if Thompson eventually bows out and officially throws his support behind Huckabee, as far as these true believers are concerned, it may be difficult to unring the bell.
This situation tends to validate the rationale behind the famous 11th commandment of the Republican party: thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. It may well be that as Thompson the candidate drowns in a whirlpool of unfulfilled promise and uninspired rhetoric, he drags Huckabee down with him.
Republicans should hope that if Huckabee becomes the party’s candidate for the general election, that this is not so.