Aside from his comments on Fred Thompson during his briefing with reporters in Washington, Huckabee discussed the boost he has gotten from his performance in Ames. He said ever since his strong showing, phones have been ringing off the hook at his campaign headquarters, hits on his website are surging, and high profile conservative fundraisers who wouldn't take his calls are now calling him to pledge their support. Although Huckabee wouldn't disclose names, he said once the names become public, the media will be impressed. He'll also be on Stephen Colbert tomorrow.
As far as Jim's post earlier, Huckabee did say a lot of his new support was coming from those who are concerned about social conservatives splintering their vote, and he recommended as "brilliant" Rich Lowry's column today urging Sam Brownback to get out of the race.
Perhaps most interesting is that Huckabee made it clear that he was running as a populist and directly against the business wing of the Republican Party. "I'm appealing to a group of Republicans who really feel disaffected by what is best termed as the Wall Street Republican," he said. "I'm not a Wall Street Republican, I'm a Main Street Republican." Huckabee said he grew up in a working class background, and unlike traditional Republicans, he didn't grow up in a country club, and never even set foot in one until his 10- year high school reunion. "That's resonating with people who have felt like the Republican Party has sort of moved away from rank and file working people who are Republicans because of some convictions and or values and have become the party of the affluent and the elite." Sounding almost like John Edwards, he said, "I'm not afraid to take on our party and say that if we are the party that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street and all we do is cater to the people who are getting $100 million bonuses and not the people who are losing their jobs because of it, we're not going to just lose next year, we're going to lose elections for the next generation." I followed up to ask whether his populism was a recipe for Bush style compassionate conservatism (i.e. big government) rather than Reagan style small government, and cited the Club for Growth attacks on his tax and spending record as governor of Arkansas.
He referred to the group as the "Club for Greed" and rejected their portrayal of his record, arguing that his gas tax hike was approved by the citizens of Arkansas (and necessary to fix the roads) and that he didn't have control over the spending that increased because it was mandated by the federal government.
In my view, his populist strategy may make some waves, and I have no doubt that the media will eat up the idea of a Republican criticizing the GOP for being the party of Wall Street. But ultimately, taking on the small government, pro-business wing of the Republican Party at a time when a lot of conservatives are enraged about runaway federal spending is not the pathway to the nomination.
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