Why Attacks Aren't Sticking to Huckabee

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Nov 26, 2007 12:00 PM


Bob Novak's
column today on Mike Huckabee is, as usual, spot-on.   

... But will the opinion of a political columnist matter?

In this case, probably not.  As polls in Iowa indicate, Mike Huckabee is catching on in Iowa, and elsewhere -- a fact that I have witnessed personally by numerous family members who, until I inform them of his fiscally liberal background, are excited to ask me about him.

Obviously, Huckabee is fortunate to be competing against a field of candidates whose social conservative credentials are, at best, questionable.  His superficial attributes; his ability to speak well (as a pastor, this is his metier) have also been a tremendous resource.

But I believe there is one last ingredient which is helping him, and that is the fact that it is harder to comprehend fiscal issues, and thus, harder to indict him (and easier to indict his opponents). 

"Abortion is murder," is a bumper sticker message that is easy to understand.  Arguing the Byzantine differences between "Monetarist" doctrine versus "Keynesian" orthodoxy, by contrast, requires a bit more time and knowledge.   Sure, people understand tax cuts, but the waters have become muddied by sophistry, and politicians are able to parry the question by arguing they raised some taxes, but cut the tax "rate", etc.  Besides, much of what bothers me about Huckabee is his class warfare comments, which are truly scary, but hard to explain.

When it comes to conservative public opinion, it's easier to get away with being a fiscal squish than it is to get away with being a social squish.  What is more, Iowa may be the perfect mileu for Huckabee to pull off his populist message.

For this reason, Huckabee's ascendancy does not reveal a growing chasm in the Republican Party (as some would have us believe).  People aren't knowingly rejecting fiscal conservatism by supporting him. 

Meanwhile, Huckabee's opponents are desperately seeking to educate the public on Huckabee's past fiscal positions because while some social conservatives are populists, the vast majority have a free market ethos ... it's just not their primary issue, so the apostasy isn't much noticed and the fecundity of the anti-Huckabee animadversion is in question.

I've always thought that there were two GOP candidates who had the greatest chance of being under-estimated by inside-the-beltway bloggers and reporters: Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee.  I still believe this to be true.  But in the case of Huckabee, it may be because it's simply hard to explain his fiscal failings.

While the conservative panjandrum is limning him as a fiscal liberal, Huckabee continues to gain among average Republican voters.  The unusual recent endorsements of Chuck Norris and  wrestler Ric Flair play right into this strategy.  No doubt, the redoubtable Huckabee is well aware of this ...