In Texas just before Independence Day, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee co-sponsored a "Rediscovering God in America" pastors' conference. The event, Huckabee said, was "to remind and encourage us that the proper position for America when facing evil and confronting enemies is not to find excuses for defeat but to find the resources, the courage and the strength from God necessary to win." But if John McCain thinks Huckabee as veep will give divine strength to the GOP ticket in November -- he's wrong.
For some in the McCain campaign -- most notably, McCain himself -- a "social conservative" is such a foreign entity that they are flying blind trying to secure that key GOP constituency. Despite his pro-life voting record, Arizona Sen. McCain is on record this election cycle making it clear he has little interest in such issues. Knowing this, conservative evangelicals are not overjoyed at McCain's nomination.
The problem with Huckabee is that he is not conservative. When Huckabee won the Iowa caucus in January, conservative Club for Growth President Pat Toomey declared, "Huckabee's win in Iowa is a temporary setback for conservatism." The former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania continued, "It often seems like Huckabee goes out of his way to anger the other elements of the conservative movement instead of courting them, dismissing his critics who believe in economic freedom and a strong national defense as members of the Washington establishment, Wall Street millionaires and secular elitists."
Toomey predicted: "Huckabee is a fringe Republican and does not represent the conservative movement on economic policy, domestic programs, law and order, and foreign policy. It is hard to imagine a candidate so out of step with most in the conservative movement assuming the stage in Minnesota in eight months as its leader."
Toomey is far from alone. Conservative talk-radio leader Rush Limbaugh declared Huckabee "not a conservative" during the primary fight. Although Huckabee struck an attractive populist tone, his solutions tend to be statist. It's no surprise he'd run a big-government campaign: He was a statist as governor of Arkansas. The Libertarian Cato Institute gave him a "D" rating on fiscal policy when he was in Little Rock; spending increased at three times the rate of inflation during his tenure there. Further, Huckabee is a protectionist and proved during the primary campaign to know very little about foreign policy. While McCain certainly has that ground covered, Huckabee can't pass the "plausible president" test a vice-presidential pick really ought to -- and will need to, especially this year on the Republican side, with a 72-year-old candidate at the top of the ticket.