Hugh Hewitt

Maybe illegal immigration doesn't matter that much after all?

Maybe the Reagan coalition is in fact dead.

Mike Huckabee won Iowa and John McCain is leading in New Hampshire. Neither candidate is in step with the GOP base on immigration, with John McCain voting for social security benefits for illegal aliens and Mike Huckabee supporting in-state tuition for illegal alien students. (Both have also made statements that their opponents have characterized as being pro-amnesty though both deny they are pro-amnesty.) Tom Tancredo's own effort fizzled and his endorsement of Mitt Romney didn't carry the former Massachusetts governor to first place in Iowa. Listening to conservative talk radio hosts, the passion they brought to defeating McCain-Kennedy not once but twice is missing from their electoral analysis.

In short, has the anti-illegal immigration bubble burst?

Or do we have an unusual Iowa electorate believing what they want to believe about Mike Huckabee and ignoring his past positions as well as his dumbfounding statements on foreign affairs, and the Yankees of New Hampshire simply wanting to stick it to Romney because he was, until today, the frontrunner?

Are we now into the long, long campaign, or just watching the petering out of the GOP tide of the past quarter century?

In 1976, Ronald Reagan refused to take early losses as a reason for exiting and made Gerry Ford go the distance. Every step of the way Reagan fought for ideas, and refused to accept defeat. He didn't win that nomination battle, but he did win the war for the GOP's heart. Because he refused to quit and because he believed in the ideals of small government, low taxes, liberty and a strong defense.

To survive another second place finish in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney has to communicate to the GOP that he believes in Reagan's ideas and Reagan's coalition --in tax cuts and originalist judges, in a strong national defense and secure borders, in restrained domestic spending, the protection of the unborn and traditional marriage, and of course, free trade and victory in the war.

McCain flunks the tax cuts' test, voted for the Gang of 14 and against the Federal Marriage Amendment. Huckabee is against free trade and the free market when it comes to the governance of corporate America. Huck's a big spender, and a soft-on-crime, serial commuter-of-sentences.

Huckabee is so anti-Reagan coalition that his main campaign guy, Ed Rollins, declared the coalition to be dead.

Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.