Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Other Elephant In The Room

Mike Huckabee is neither bad at math, nor actually hoping for a convention “miracle.” He is striving mightily to adhere to the “I majored in miracles, not math” line, but can anyone say they believe him in the face of the delegate counts that even my eleven-year-old son could explain to him? What is actually going on is that Mike Huckabee is doing something far more impressive than Bill Clinton’s verbal limbo dance regarding the Lewinski affair, Huckabee has been doing an excellent job of getting America to believe a lie—without actually telling a lie.

What lets us know that Mike Huckabee is lying about staying in the race is the fact that it is February 15 and he is still in the race. He is the other elephant in the room and, finally, people are beginning to talk about it. Important Republican leaders are dropping hints that it might be time for him to drop out of the race and stop dividing the party, but Huckabee is ignoring those hints.

What we need is for Mike Huckabee to place his right hand on the Bible and make the following statement: “I solemnly swear in the sight of God almighty that I continued campaigning for the Republican nomination after Super Tuesday’s delegate counts were made known to me because I honestly believed that I still had a realistic chance to be the Republican Party’s candidate in 2008 or that the chance a divinely-inspired miracle would give me victory at the convention was greater than the chance I would weaken my party’s chances of winning in November.”

I believe that Huckabee is a genuinely religious man and, so, I will believe him if he makes the above oath. Otherwise, we need to find out why he won’t drop out of the race when he has no chance to win.

Is he really running for the vice presidency, as some suggest? Hardly. Look at John McCain. Does he really seem like the kind of man who would reward the guy who has been jerking him around and embarrassing him? McCain’s reputation as a political opportunist leads us to the conclusion that it is still possible, but it is also quite possible that McCain will hold a grudge.

Is Huckabee grinding it out to the end with an eye towards gathering support in the primaries before breaking away from the party and running as an independent? Not likely. Huckabee is smart and knows a run as an independent would split the conservative vote and guarantee a Democratic victory in November. Running as an indie would be breaking the rules of the party and likely guarantee that he could never be a Republican nominee for the Presidency. Elephants never forget.

Despite his statements hinting to the contrary, it seems unlikely that he believes in even the possibility that Mitt Romney’s delegates will support him en masse, now that Romney has endorsed McCain. It doesn’t matter whether Huckabee majored in Math, miracles, or mud pies; he understands the numbers as well as anyone else in the party.

CNN quotes him as saying, "I think it would be a great disservice to the country and to my own party to just give up and quit because it looks like, you know, the numbers are trending toward John McCain." Why would it be a disservice? Since he can’t take the nomination from McCain, wouldn’t it be helpful to his party to unite it rather than divide it. If he actually believes Republican “ideals” are better than Democratic “ideals,” wouldn’t he actually be doing his country a favor by beginning to marshal support for McCain?

In my previous entry, “Not Smart Enough To See,” I detailed the case for Huckabee’s grinding it out in 2008 in order to position himself for 2012. This still seems likely, but another result of his staying in the race (and claiming the support of even more primary voters who are too conservative to support McCain) is that he is the most likely candidate to fill the coming party power vacuum, which will be created when George W. Bush and his part of the party organization lose their position as the most important voice in the party at the end of his term in office.

If John McCain loses the general election in November, Mike Huckabee will become the most important voice in the Republican Party. He will speak for the base, and the rest of the party will be forced to listen.

Huckabee, in gaining the support, money, and primary votes of the hard-core end of the conservative spectrum, is rapidly on his way to supplanting people like James Dobson and the leaders of other conservative special interest groups as the voice of the Christian conservative and/or religious fundamentalist grassroots. Why would Joe Conservative donate to Focus On The Family in the hopes that it will work to bring about the conservative agenda, when he can give the money directly to good ol’ Reverend Mike's 2012 campaign? President Huckabee could do more to enact that agenda than a thousand Dobsons.

Dobson, who held back endorsing a candidate until February 8th, wisely chose to endorse Huckabee. This ensures that Huckabee will work through Hobson and Focus On The Family, rather than working around the group, if and when he moves to consolidate his support among Republicans following a McCain defeat in November. Other evangelical leaders, Gary Bauer among them, have endorsed McCain in an attempt to unite the party, perhaps in part because they fear their political leadership roles will be marginalized if McCain loses due to a division in the ranks.

Short of hearing Governor Huckabee swear the oath mentioned above, we can’t really know why he has not yet withdrawn from the race and thrown his support behind his party’s frontrunner. All we can do is to see how things play out and try to figure out the intentions from the results. Of course, all bets are off if a “miracle” actually does occur.


Earl said...

He's in to make sure he's positioned to face the incumbent Dem in 2012. You nailed it. His party has no chance so he's positioning himself for the future.

Arb Elbow said...

I'm really going to feel stupid if/when McCain actually does ask him to be his running mate--or if he fades into obscurity by 2012. I'm glad somebody agrees with me, though.

Maybe my mistrust/distrust of Huckabee is just my innate prejudice showing through. He just sets off my "Church/State Crossover" detector.