Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign is building momentum. He is leading by double digits in Iowa, and place either first or second in nationwide polls. Considering that he is doing all this with next to no money and little organization outside of Iowa, his poll success is truly impressive.
However, Huckabee’s success is drawing considerable scrutiny from conservatives—with good reason. While his pro-life credentials are impeccable, his tax plan (the FairTax) is poorly thought out and impractical, he has a disturbing record of raising taxes as governor of Arkansas, and he is shaky on illegal immigration. These issues are enough to raise red flags for conservatives.
However, Mike Huckabee has been subject to vicious attacks by conservatives that have no basis in reality, and seem to made with the sole purpose of smearing him. While Huckabee is a poor candidate, there is no excuse for employing utterly unwarranted assaults against his candidacy.
Chief among those guilty is Matt Drudge. It is obvious that Drudge sometimes displays bias—pictures of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards found on his news site rarely portray these presidential candidates in their best light. Drudge has passed on more than his fair share of Hillary Clinton rumors; evidenced by the time he highlighted a completely unsubstantiated report that Hillary was a lesbian. Drudge’s attacks against Huckabee, however, are starting to look ridiculous. Yesterday, his top headline was a reminder that Huckabee once said “We need to take this nation back for Christ.” Today, his top headline was an unsubstantiated report of a DNC strategy to lay off of Huckabee, as the DNC perceives him as the GOP’s weakest candidate.
While most acknowledge that Drudge is biased, he has the responsibility to be fair to those individuals he covers. Two straight days of Huckabashing is not news coverage, it is a hit job.
Another incredibly groundless is Charles Krauthammer’s accusation that Huckabee is purposing employing anti-Mormon bigotry in his Iowa strategy. This line of thinking reasons that since Huckabee bills himself as a Christian leader in his campaign ads, and since the Mormon Mitt Romney is (according to some) not a Christian, Huckabee’s “Christian” reference is a veiled sideswipe at Romney.
If Huckabee is employing the anti-Mormon strategy, it isn’t working. His Iowa support is coming from Romney supporters looking for a Christian to support, it is coming from undecideds. Romney has been stuck at around 25% support for several months. Now, even though Huckabee has passed him, his support is still around 25%. Mike Huckabee’s support is not coming from ex-Mitt Romney voters.
But it is obvious that, effective or not, Huckabee is not using an anti-Mormon plan. His “Christian leader” tag is basically all he has to run on. The FairTax has a significant number of supporters, but not enough to fuel a presidential campaign. No one is enthused about his foreign policy ideas. (They aren’t bad, they just aren’t particularly good). His border strategy is not exciting anyone (except the head of the Minutemen; he endorsed Huckabee today). The one thing Huckabee has run on has been his faith. It is inevitable that it would be mentioned in his ads.
Most conservative bloggers oppose Huckabee since he is no conservative. National Review Online is a good example of this tendency—in it’s The Corner blog, everyone constantly bashed Huckabee. Most of their attacks are fair. However, they are undermined a bit as many of the people making them are Rudy Giuliani supporters. If Huckabee is a liberal, then the pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-gay rights, pro-sanctuary cities Rudy Giuliani is one too. These people should be consistent.
The final charge leveled at Huckabee is the Wayne Dumond case. There can be on doubt that Huckabee displayed atrocious judgment in this case, which involved the parole of a convicted rapist who then raped and killed again. There is little doubt that had it been up to Huckabee, Wayne Dumond would have been set free. However, Huckabee did not make that decision. The parole board did, perhaps under pressure from Huckabee. While Huckabee was for the release, he did not actually bear responsibility for setting Dumond free.
While that may seem to be a distinction without a difference, news coverage of this event blurs this distinction. One would be pardoned for assuming that Huckabee bore sole responsibility for Dumond’s release. He did not. Huckabee displayed poor judgment, but he is no Michael Dukakis.
Even though there have been dozens of attack against him, legitimate or otherwise, Huckabee continues to do well in the polls. The reason for his surge? Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani is no conservative on social issues, and “values voters” make up a core constituency of the Republican Party. These values voters were given the choice of supporting a candidate with sound ideas on fiscal and foreign policy issues, or one who was good on social issues. Is it any surprise they chose the social conservative? Republican leaders who supported Giuliani ignored the social conservative vote, and it cost them.