But Huckabee’s strength is not just his orthodoxy on gay marriage, abortion, gun control and the usual litany. It is his opening of the religious right to a host of new issues. He speaks firmly for the right to life, but then notes that our responsibility for children does not end with childbirth. His answer to the rise of medical costs is novel and exciting. “Eighty percent of all medica l spending,” he says, “is for chronic diseases.” So he urges an all-out attack on teen smoking and overeating and a push for exercise not as the policies of a big-government liberal but as the requisites of a fiscal conservative anxious to save tax money.
So what happens if Huckabee wins in Iowa? With New Hampshire only five days later, his momentum will be formidable. The key may boil down to how Hillary does in Iowa. Hillary? Yes. If she loses in Iowa, most of the independents in New Hampshire will flock to the Democratic primary to vote for her or against her. That will move the Republican electorate to the right in New Hampshire — bad news for Rudy, good news for Huckabee. But if she wins in Iowa, there will be no point in voting in the Democratic primary and a goodly number will enter the GOP contest, giving Rudy a big boost.
And afterward? If Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina, sweeping the early prim aries, Giuliani will have a very tough task to bring him down in Florida or on Super Tuesday. It can be done, but it’s tough. But if Romney loses in Iowa (likely to Huckabee) then Rudy can survive the loss of Iowa and even New Hampshire without surrendering irresistible momentum to Romney.
In any event, neither Hillary nor Giuliani will be knocked out by defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire. Their 50-state organizations, their national base and their massive war chests will permit them to fight it out all over the United States. Even if they lose the first two contests, they will remain in the race and could well come back to win.