Mike Huckabee has undeniable political skills and a clear appeal to social conservatives, but the media have gone way overboard in trying to portray him as a potential consensus conservative candidate, if only he had the money and name recognition.
When Sean Hannity interviewed Huckabee after the debate last night, Hannity said the only bad thing he had every heard a conservative say about Huckabee was a comment he made on immigration. Meanwhile, David Brooks engaged in some more whitewashing in his ode to Huckabee in a recent NY Times column when he wrote that “each of the top-tier candidates makes certain parts of the party uncomfortable. Huckabee is the one candidate acceptable to all factions.”
Huh? The Club for Growth, a prominent group of economic conservatives, finds Huckabee so unacceptable due to his fiscal record in Arkansas that they created an entire Website to attacking him called “Tax Hike Mike.” He received an “F” from the Cato Institute in their annual fiscal report card of governors, ranking him sixth from last. Also not to the liking of small-government conservatives and libertarians, there’s his anti-smoking and obesity crusades and the nanny-statism that goes along with it.
Then there is foreign policy. Several people I spoke to at the Value Voters Summit–who loved Huckabee–were concerned that he was too soft on national security. Huckabee is aware of this perception, which is why he spent the early part of his speech at the conference to speaking about Islomofascism, and probably why in the debate last night he called it “the most dangerous enemy we’ve ever faced.” Conservative hawks will need to hear a lot more to become comfortable with him.
This doesn’t even get into the ethics problems he had as governor of Arkansas.
My point is not to pick on Huckabee. And if somebody wants to argue that in a general election against the Democrat, Republicans need an economic populist who can appeal to the middle class, or that he’d be fine on foreign policy, okay. But the reality is that there are plenty of conservatives who are hostile or at least uncomfortable with Huckabee’s candidacy, and to portray things any differently displays either ignorance of the subject matter or intellectual dishonesty in an effort to shakeup the campaign narrative by promoting a likable character.