One does not have to be a supporter of former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (as I am not) without admiring his ability to move ahead in the Iowa polls by sheer will. Huckabee has limited staff and financial resources and is running few television commercials. He depends mainly upon Christian groups for a word-of-mouth campaign. He narrowly trails Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, among Iowa caucus voters. The question is whether he can sustain his momentum. It would seem that he is peaking too soon. No one expected him to be a real contender in Iowa.
Meanwhile, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has a four-point lead over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) in THE Washington Post-ABC poll. The same poll showed Huckabee to be surging on the Republican side. Both poll results are shocking. What they suggest is that voters want real change. That does not bode well for Republicans. Despite the Democratic sweep of Congress in 2006 and their subsequent low approval ratings, the public still thinks Republicans run everything because President George W. Bush is in the White House.
There are times when the public wants stability. The 2004 election was such a time. The public liked what Bush did in his first term. Thus, they voted to keep him in office. The same was true of President Richard M. Nixon’s first term. He won a landslide victory in 1972. It was only in his second term that he had to deal with Watergate and the resignation of his Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew. Because of Watergate 1976 became a change election. On the other hand, after President Ronald W. Reagan’s two terms in office, Republicans retained control of the White House in 1988. When President George H. W. Bush agreed to a massive tax increase after promising no new taxes, 1992 became a change election and Bush lost to Governor William J. Clinton, of Arkansas.
The 2008 election could be a change election because of the unpopular war in Iraq (although opinion may alter if the American military can maintain or increase stability in Iraq) and voters’ belief that our economy is in terrible condition because of the mortgage crisis and the weak dollar.
For a Republican candidate to win in 2008 he must convince voters that he represents change while not repudiating President Bush, who is still popular with the Republican Party’s core constituency. That may be difficult to do. Of course, if the voting public could be convinced that a Democratic President would mean drastically higher taxes and a weak national defense, the 2008 election could switch from a change to a stable election. It is not clear if any Republican candidate has the credibility to pull that off.
As of now, 2008 remains a change election.