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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Mike Huckabee has been trying to get one more debate with John McCain ever since Mitt Romney quit the Republican presidential contest, and it appears that the moment of truth has arrived. A debate which would be hosted by the Values Voter organization has been scheduled for March 3rd at the Marriott Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas. Invitations have been extended to John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul.  Late yesterday (February 27) Huckabee’s campaign enthusiastically accepted the invitation. Ron Paul will no doubt do the same.

Will John McCain participate? Doing so may hurt him, considering that Huckabee is a magnificent debater while McCain is merely above average. But refusing to do so would reflect badly on a candidate who likes to run on a reputation for honor and forthrightness. McCain finds himself between a rock and a populist place.


Looking for a fight... 

Mike Huckabee has formally challenged John McCain to a debate.  This is not an unexpected development, considering Huckabee’s excellent performance in all the debates to date, and it’ll probably result in nothing, since McCain is too smart to agree to an appearance that he’s guaranteed to lose.  Nevertheless, it’s worth reporting because Huckabee is sure to use McCain’s reticence against him.

The text of Huckabee’s official letter follows:

Dear Senator McCain:

It’s been my pleasure sharing the stage with you this past year, as we have worked to promote our ideas to lead this county. I have the deepest respect for you as a person, politician, and an American hero – and I appreciate the way you have run such an issue-based, positive campaign.

Now that the race for the Republican nomination is down to just the two of us, I believe this is the time for a real discussion about our vision for the future of this great country. I encourage you to join me in a Lincoln Douglas-style debate so that voters can better understand our views on critical issues such as health care, education, energy independence, terrorism and national security.

Our Democratic counterparts, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have had recent opportunities to underscore the differences in their positions. It seems only fitting to me that Republican primary voters are offered the same.

I look forward to working with your staff to schedule this as soon as possible. I would suggest we set the debate before the March Fourth Primaries. It is my hope that one of the TV networks would offer to sponsor such an event.

Senator, let’s lead by example and get the ball rolling. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this idea and debating you in front of the American people


Mike Huckabee

...running from a fight

Mike Huckabee’s appearance on SNL last night was a complete success for the candidate and for the show.

The bit begins with Weekend Update anchors Seth Myers and Amy Pohler segueing from a previous item into a brief discussion of Huckabee’s unwillingness to leave the race for the presidential nomination.  Myers then introduces Huckabee, and inquires why Huckabee remains an active candidate.

A hilarious exchange ensues, with Myers playing the worldly-wise news anchor explaining the term “mathematical impossibility” to Huckabee while Huckabee feigns surprise and good-naturedly plays along as though he hadn’t understood the primary/caucus/delegate/convention system.  The bit ends with another gag, in which Huckabee announces that whatever happens, when it’s time for him to exit the contest he’ll know, and that he’ll “exit…with class and grace.”  Huckabee then misses several obvious cues that his appearance is over and the players are waiting for him to depart the set.

All in all it was a very clevely written and well-executed bit, and Huckabee pulled it off with great aplomb.  He seemed entirely comfortable and he was very well received by the audience.

The best thing about this appearance, though, was the way it poked fun at the conventional wisdom and showed Huckabee to be a humble and humorous fellow, willing to laugh at himself.  He hammed it up just enough to be funny, but he didn’t go to Jerry Lewis-land.  Hopefully it served notice to the powers that be that Huckabee is staying in the contest for the Republican contest, as he has said, until it’s resolved.

According to MSNBC, Mike Huckabee was asked about the scandalous story published in today’s New York Times, which alleges that John McCain had an affair with a female lobbyist and that favors were traded.  McCain’s campaign has criticized the story’s conclusion while McCain has insisted that only a “friendship” existed between him and the lobbyist, whose name will not be published here.  Huckabee’s only statement on the McCain story was, “I only know him to be a man of integrity.”

MSNBC reports that Huckabee declined reporters’ requests to say speak further on the subject.

If you keep up with politics, Republican politics especially, you’ve been hearing that Mike Huckabee is hurting John McCain by staying in the contest for the Republican nomination.  You’ve read that party strategists are frustrated with Huckabee and party leaders are hinting that it’s time for him to give up and clear the path for McCain.

Now I’m going to tell you how Huckabee’s continuing candidacy is good for the Republican party, and why John McCain should be glad that Huckabee isn’t giving up and dropping out.

  1. Mike Huckabee is consolidating and galvanizing the conservative Christian base of the social conservatives.  If he wins, it will be because of the enthusiastic support of this conservative wing of the Republican party.  If he loses, he’ll be able to deliver that segment of the party to John McCain, giftwrapped and topped with a big bow.
  2. Huckabee obeys the 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”  That means that he doesn’t campaign in a way that’s destructive to John McCain – instead, Huckabee gives McCain credit for his virtues, emphasizes all that’s right with the Republican party, and pushes the party to become more conservative.  And as Huckabee has pointed out, when the Republicans are conservative they win.  When the Republicans are moderate, they lose.
  3. Huckabee’s continuing candidacy is keeping John McCain in the news.  McCain’s handlers and the Republican party could waste this benefit if all they do is complain and criticize Huckabee for providing competition, but if they get back on message and campaign in a positive way, they can take advantage of this situation to avoid being forgotten while Hillary and Obama duke it out on the Democrat side.
  4. Mike Huckabee knows how to lose graciously.  If he’s mathematically eliminated before the convention, he’ll make a big show of enthusiastically endorsing John McCain.  If the candidates go to St Paul with the endorsement undecided and McCain wins there, Huckabee should be given a prime-time slot for his concession/endorsement, because it’ll be a rousing and persuasive speech.

What, you want me to drop out?  I can't hear you!

The Republican party is the party that believes in freedom and liberty.  It’s also the party that supports competition as a means to improvement, both in the marketplace and in the public sector.  That’s why it’s surprising to hear Republicans say that Huckabee is hurting the party.  I suspect that all is said and done, the party will be glad that Huck stayed in until the end – win or lose.

Update: this article has been cited by the Opinionated Catholic blog, in a treatise more eloquent and articulate than my own.  Back at you, pal.

Huckabee addresses an enthusiastic crowd

The contest for the Republican presidential nomination continues to be competitive, the most recent evidence being the ARG poll that shows Huckabee has closed the gap between John McCain and himself by twenty points in the last week – he now trails McCain in Wisconsin by just 4 percentage points.

It seems clear that Huckabee is shooting for something bigger than VP – I think he’s setting the stage for his next run, in four or eight years.  I keep thinking of Reagan in ’76, when everyone said, “Too bad he’s too old to run again next time.”  Well Huckabee isn’t too old, so if he loses this time he’s almost sure to run again.  With the enthusiasm he has generated (and continues to generate) this cycle, he’ll have a lot of people wishing and hoping for an opportunity to vote for him again.  If Huckabee is willing to pay his dues like McCain did after his loss to Bush in ’00, I’m very confident that he’ll get the nod next time he runs.

 The Really Good CommunicatorWhat If:

  • What if Mike Huckabee wins the upcoming Republican primaries in Wisconsin or Texas, or both?  Wisconsin, like Iowa, has lots of small towns, lots of farmers, and a sizeable evangelical population that is likely to boost Huckabee.  Unlike Iowa, however, Wisconsin has a vast and sparsely populated wilderness in the north where the people are independent-minded and mildly belligerent.  Wisconsin could go either way.  East Texas is part of the relatively populous rural South and is likely to go strongly for Huckabee.  Combined with a respectable showing in the state’s central cities and wild west, that could give him that state’s primary.  A win in either state would give Huckabee momentum and credibility for a continued run.  His fundraising would continue to be strong and other Southern and Midwestern states would look forward to their opportunity to heart Huckabee.
  • What if Huckabee loses both Wisconsin and Texas?  If Huckabee doesn’t win either state, his support will probably wilt and he’ll likely be advised to drop his bid.  If that happens, Huckabee can do the party a great service by endorsing John McCain enthusiastically and wholeheartedly.  I think the McCain people – who are fretting that Huckabee’s continued campaign will undermine their man – are underestimating just how powerful an endorsement from Huckabee would be.  Huckabee’s supporters have more love and respect for their candidate than Mitt Romney’s ever did, and by now everyone in America knows what a gifted communicator Mike Huckabee is.  The only question is whether Huckabee would use an endorsement speech as an opportunity to make the party regret their choice of candidate, as Ronald Reagan did with his final speech at the 1976 Republican convention, and it’s doubtful that Huckabee would do that.

Whenever and however his concession happens (and it seems almost inevitable now), Huckabee can be expected to provide a convincing and moving endorsement of John McCain.  It’s still unknown whether McCain is considering (or will later consider) Huckabee for the VP slot, but he would be foolish not to.  Huckabee speaks eloquently and persuasively to Republicans who would otherwise be reluctant to give their votes to McCain.

The Chuckinator Questions my wife would like to ask of Mike Huckabee:

  • Do you really know Mr Norris?
  • Is he as big in real life as he is on TV?
  • Does he like chicken?
  • What color is his underwear?
  • Does he color his hair?
  • What is his real middle name?
  • Whats his dog’s name? 

Folks,  with the newly christened “Potamac Primaries” coming up today, I’m here to tell that you don’t have to ride the bandwagon.  You don’t have to go with the flow.  This message is a plea for a clean break.  I’m asking you to do what you know in your heart is right.

Bear with me a moment while I try to set the stage for you.  I want you to understand what I’m asking you to do, and why.

If you look at poll numbers for Virginia, the first really important battlebround state for John McCain and Mike Huckabee, there’s an interesting dynamic at work.  After Mitt Romney dropped out of the race, John McCain experienced a huge jump in terms of support.  McCain saw his support rise to 55-57% according to surveys by Mason-Dixon and SurveyUSA on February 7 and 8.  But then, according to another SurveyUSA poll conducted on February 9 and 10, McCain’s support dipped abruptly, from 57% to 48%, while Mike Huckabee saw his support zoom from 25% to 37%.  A little simple math will show that in a period of less than 48 hours, that amounted to a 21% break in Huckabee’s favor.

I think this illustrates the magnitude of something that’s happening in many Republican hearts across America right now.  When Romney left the contest, there was a tendency on the part of many of us to try to consolidate – to get behind the “presumptive” nominee and give him a boost.  But for too many people it just didn’t feel right.  John McCain is an earnest and honorable man, but he’s stands a little bit outside the mainstream of conservative thought – or at least at little bit cockeyed within it.

Mike Huckabee is a genuine character; he speaks freely and he speaks in specifics.  He has a quip for every situation, and his talent for communication is positively Reaganesque.  Huckabee is a longtime social conservative whose record betrays no uncertainty or equivocation, and those of us who are uneasy with McCain find him both soothing and exhilarating.

So there’s a spontaneous movement afoot.  Whether there’s enough time for it to fully bloom is uncertain.  But what’s happening across a wide range of geographic and ideological delineations is a movement of the heart, a leaving of the man who seems like the smart, safe compromise, and running to the other, the one for whom our hearts yearn.

Are you one of the many who still rides the McCain bandwagon even though you don’t like the route it’s taking?  Do you think that you have to support McCain because he’s the anointed “next Republican One?”  If you’re planning to vote against your true inner desire because you think it’s the pragmatic thing to do, I have some words for you.  To borrow a theme from Doctor Seuss, I think your imagination is three sizes too small.

The thing about miracles is that they only happen where there’s faith.  It’s time to believe in miracles.

To view the polls cited in this article you can visit:

John McCain attended the CPAC Conference in Washington and then campaigned in Kansas last week, which caused him to miss a global security conference in Germany.  No problem, he just sent his pal Tim Pawlenty, Republican governor of Minnesota.

Buddies and mutual admirers Pawlenty (left) and McCain (right)

This is sure to fuel the speculation among Minnesota Republicans that Pawlenty is likely to be McCain’s running mate in November, should McCain win the Republican nomination for president.  Pawlenty’s international experience is limited by his position as governor of a medium-sized albeit prosperous Midwestern state.  Attending such a pretigious event can only help Pawlenty, as long as he doesn’t pull a GHW Bush and yak on the prime minister of Japan before passing out and disappearing under the dinner table.

Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas

One prominent politician seems to have removed his name from consideration for the position, and that’s Mike Huckabee.  Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Huckabee told Tim Russert this morning that he thinks it unlikely that McCain would select him as a running mate.  “I’m not going to be asked. I think it’s pretty evident that there would be a whole lot of people on the list long, long before me, and one of them would say ‘yes,'”  However, Huckabee reiterated that he is still in the contest to win it, and that he hopes that he will be the one looking for a running mate come convention time.