The chatter in the blogosphere the last few days is all about a supposed recent disclosure (trial balloon?) from a major McCain fundraiser who says that Mike Huckabee is John McCain’s favorite potential running mate.
Actually, it’s unclear whether Huckabee is McCain’s favorite or the favorite of McCain’s strategists. The distinction is significant, because McCain’s maverick reputation is well-earned; McCain may choose the Huckster against his handlers’ wishes if it’s his idea, or he may rebel against those handlers if Huck’s candidacy is their idea.
And the fact may well be that this rumor is only being floated to see how the public responds. If that’s the case, it isn’t the enthusiastic response of evangelicals and social conservatives that’s being measured, because their ardor for Huckabee is well known. It’s the response of moderates, fiscal conservatives, neocons, Ron Paul nuts, and conservative Democrats that interests those strategists.
As with any vice presidential pick, Huckabee would bring both positives and negatives to the ticket. Here’s my plus/minus analysis for Mike Huckabee.
Plus: Social conservatives and Evangelical Christians love Huckabee earnestly because he doesn’t condescend to them and because they know where his ideals come from. They love a candidate whose motives are pure and to whom they can relate.
Plus: Southerners, even black Southerners, like Huckabee’s background and demeanor. He can help McCain win the South, which is in play because Obama is so popular with African Americans.
Plus: Huckabee is a killer debater and a gifted orator. Whoever Obama selects as his running mate will have to be a very talented and very aggressive debater in order to hold his/her own in the VP debates. That’s because Huckabee’s only obvious weakness (observed from Republican debates) is responding to direct attacks and insults.
Plus: Huck’s Army. This is the volunteer corps of 20,000 dedicated grassroots supporters who marched, blogged, put up signs, telemarketed, and otherwise campaigned on Huckabee’s behalf during his prexy campaign. You sign up Huckabee, you get Huck’s Army in the bargain, and that’s like getting free money. Even better, it’s like getting free paid employees.
Plus: The tireless campaigner, Mike Huckabee. Knows how to operate on four hours of sleep seven days a week. This is a must for the Republicans, because 2008 is looking like a down year for the party. Extra hard work will be required in order to be competitive. We know that McCain is up to the task, but he needs his #2 to be capable as well.
Minus: Huckabee has been, and continues to be, scorned by fiscal conservatives for raising some taxes in Arkansas, at the same time he was cutting others and balancing the state budget every year.
Minus: Democrats may attack Huckabee’s religiosity, and doing so may be an effective tactic. For reasons that I tried to spell out in this post (https://rightyloosey.wordpress.com/2007/12/15/they-just-dont-get-us/), many Americans are uncomfortable with religion – especially Christianity – and will object to the way the an Evangelical like Huckabee tends to mix religious symbolism and rhetoric with his everyday speech. It’s no affectation, of course – it’s just the way Southerners (and Northern evangelicals) talk. They can’t help using religious metaphors or figures of speech drawn from scripture, because it’s part of their culture. But there are several strains of secular hostility to religious expression in this country, be they elitist, atheistic, antitheistic, or just ignorant.
Minus: Neither McCain nor Huckabee has a degree from a prestigious university, though both attended very rigorous schools. Huckabee’s early graduation magna cum laude from Ouachita State University in Arkansas isn’t going to impress most Americans, and neither will his unfinished M Div at Southwestern Theological Seminary. (McCain graduated from the US Naval Academy.) So Huckabee won’t be able to make up for McCain’s perceived academic deficiencies.
Righty Loosey says: Choosing Huckabee for his running mate would be a shrewd move by John McCain. A candidate can either shore up the base or poach votes from the opposition, seldom does he have a chance to do both. In this case, John McCain can shore up the conservative base while stealing the blue collar vote from Barack Obama, if only he’s smart enought to select Huckabee for Veep.