Kevin McCullough

I look forward to the 2012 election cycle. I've been writing about it since November of last year.

I've defended the three top names in the GOP field each against scurrilous attacks from the media that seeks to demonize anything non-Obama. And within the Republican ranks the dirt is already flying.

For Sarah Palin the mud slinging against her never really stopped. Between McCain camp operatives that should be booted from the GOP and not welcomed back, the pervy antics of pervy David Letterman, all the way to opportunistic ex-boyfriends of her daughter who is prostituting himself for ten more seconds of fame, Palin has endured lie after lie, attack after attack, and has done so with grace. I have defended her against other conservatives who said she did the wrong thing in stepping down from office. Practically speaking there is NO WAY that she could run a "lower 48" campaign for President, raise the money necessary, attend events, and be where she needs to be--while governing Alaska. Her resignation allows her successor plenty of time to stand strongly for reelection in her state.

Romney's conversion to conservatism in the last election was strongly questioned. But his continual laying out of his policy positions and his fervor with which he committed himself to those positions, particularly at places like Values Voter Summit demonstrated, in my mind a clear demarcation of accountability that he was willing to be measured. His critics like Sandy Rios and Gregg Jackson continued to openly question his commitment to his pro-life, pro-marriage positions, long after his elimination from contention in 2008. Jackson et al going so far as to continue to spam with unwanted e-mail a large number of conservative "prominents" nearly once weekly until McCain had named Palin as his running mate. I personally interviewed the Governor multiple times, had in depth discussions openly, it is my personal opinion that the Governor was then and has been since, deeply committed to his conservative principles.

Governor Huckabee though has, as I've already stated multiple times in print, positioned himself as the absolute front-runner for the nomination in 2012. In securing his weekly gig with Fox News Channel, the highest rated cable weekend show of all the news networks, he has established for himself a brand, messaging platform, and a wide variety of issue related subjects that will be nearly impossible for his opponents to attempt to steal from him in 2012. (Which is exactly what Romney's people--not the governor personally--attempted to do in 2008.) A dozen or so Romney-related PAC's ran a covert slime operation so sinister against Huckabee in 2008 that it literally poisoned the well. The National Review ran with the plan, albeit unknowingly I believe, and assisted the mega-phoning of the distortions of Huckabee's positions in ways that defy credulity. As a result Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Peggy Noonan were all highly influenced by the Romney-staffer malfeasance and repeated these distortions and in some places lies about Huckabee. Again I believe that Rush, Ann, and Peggy depended highly upon the credibility of NRO in repeating the distortions. The National Review also never ran a negative story on Romney, and repeatedly ran pieces distorting Huck's record and even his campaign positions. It was to no surprise that NRO ended up endorsing Romney.

So what does all of this have to do with my friend Matt Lewis?

To be candid, his current piece in politicsdaily sounds as though he's still drinking the National Review cool-aid from 2008. And to be gut level honest, he's grossly mistaken, because the entire landscape has changed.

In today's well written piece Lewis asserts that Palin would be heart-choice, while Romney would be the brain-choice for conservatives in 2012. He discounts Huckabee without explanation. He tries to do all this on some assertions from historical patterns.

Towards the end of his piece he makes another assertion that no "Reagan" is waiting in the wings for 2012.

I love Matt Lewis, he is a humble, genuine, good-natured guy. He's also one of the nicest guys in an increasingly rancorous and ugly punditry business. I have loved his insights from the first time I read him.

But on all of the above he could not be more mistaken.

Huckabee IS the Reagan in waiting. He's the most humble of the three Governors. He has the ability to take a room filled with tension and dissolve it with laughter. He has the best brand emerging into the narrative of the post 2008 election cycle. And he has the ability to cross all kinds of typical, narrow, sliver-like divisions and bring new people into the conservative fold.

Most underrated is his ability to think on his feet, and to speak clearly, plainly and very simply, yet with clearly conservative positions that advance the idea of limited government, strong national defense, personal responsibility/reward, and most importantly he will have the strong, overwhelming support of the base of the party that was so detestable to McCain.

His humility will shine like a spring of fresh water against the desert of Obama's arrogance. His message of ending the federal government's ability to bully you with the IRS will be in direct contrast to Obama's use of all political office elements to hurt his political opponents.
He will also have 2-3 years worth of "debates" on tape dealing with all sorts of messy political issues from his shows on Fox, where he is currently inviting 2-3 liberals per time to come on and debate the merits of his positions on issues. He had already won the vast majority of the Republican debates in 2008, but this sort of weekly interaction is only making him even BETTER as a public communicator.

And ultimately THAT is his biggest similarity to Reagan. Both were Governors, both used media to advance their message, ideas, and solutions following a failed primary in which both finished in second place. Both had the ability to reach people that had been turned off by the internal warring of partisan affairs. Both have the ability to see and project an image of America at her very best.

Additionally Matt is wrong, because the points I'm making are actually taking hold. Rasmussen's latest numbers put Huckabee in first place among the three all by himself. His negatives are also extremely low by comparison to Palin in the same poll.

I was the first pundit to predict Obama would be president, and at that time I was very lonely in doing so. No one believed that it would happen.

I have been the first longest and loudest that those who underestimate Huckabee are vastly missing the feelings of the grassroots.

And because of Obama's wrongs against "We The People" 2012 will be a more engaged, energized, and informed group than has voted for the GOP in a while.

In doing so they will look for inspiration, humility, specific solutions, and the experience at the executive position to make it happen.

And in the collapse of Romney's "greatest achievement" in state mandated health insurance reform that still allowed for public assistance and $50 abortions in his state, let's just say that people are going to be reading more of the fine print than the headlines this go around.

And Huck will be one that increasingly people will feel confidence in, by doing so.