Although Mike Huckabee once suddenly leaped into the lead in the Republican primary contests, he began to drop back just as suddenly as the New Hampshire contest approached.
On the other hand, John McCain --once considered all-but-finished -- has reportedly now surged ahead in New Hampshire and is showing signs that he could go all the way to the nomination.
Why these developments have surprised a lot of the so-called experts is puzzling. There are solid reasons for the sudden turnabout vis-à-vis Huckabee vs. McCain, and close observers should have seen them coming.
Everybody agrees that Huckabee's strength comes from the evangelical Christians. This Baptist minister loudly proclaims his Christian faith at every whistle stop, and the evangelicals eat it up. It is the reason why he came to the forefront in Iowa and it will be the reason for his downfall in New Hampshire and the rest of the primaries.
What few seem to realize is that his entire campaign rests on his strength among the evangelical Republican voters in Iowa, where they are a majority. Without this advantage elsewhere, he has nothing left in his quiver. He is a single-issue man, and once his faith -- the only arrow he has -- is no longer sought, he will have nothing else to offer but his quips, his ready wit, and his Clinton-like charm.
Huckabee has become the Tom Trancredo of the evangelical Christian vote in Iowa. Trancredo was a one-issue candidate. If you asked him about anything he brought it back to immigration. You cannot win the presidency being a one-issue candidate.
By going after the evangelical vote in Iowa, he has made himself a one-issue candidate. Voters no longer think of him as the former governor of Arkansas, but rather as the Baptist minister running for president.
Moreover, he has revealed a shocking ignorance about foreign policy and national-security issues, showing himself totally unprepared to grapple with matters such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the kind of event a president must be prepared to confront at a moment's notice.
When voters think about God they think about Mike Huckabee; when they think about the economy or foreign policy they think about other candidates.
John McCain is surging because when voters sit back and look at the field of candidates, out of all of them he's the only one in the Republican upper tier who is consistent. He is consistent in a field of GOP candidates who appear to be inconsistent from one year to the next -- and from one decade to the next -- on issues important to this campaign.