Can the GOP Heart Huckabee?

Against all conventional wisdom, Mike Huckabee and his low budget, machine-free campaign just keeps on keepin’ on!

He won’t be the nominee, of course. But he’s a very unusual kind of “spoiler” and a real object lesson for pundits on TV (and every lay person like me who “just plays one _not_ on TV”). I never bought the idea that he stayed in to help out his friend John McCain against Mitt Romney. The fact that he’s still running – and grabbing a state or two – shows that it’s not so simple.

I think he’s staying to stay. To keep his issues on his party’s agenda, to give the social conservative movement a new cohesion (and a new, fiscally liberal direction). Maybe he’ll look for the VP spot or at least play some kind of power broker role in that selection?

In any case, he’ll be someone to reckon with. With Kansas apparently locked in, he now has 7 states and could perhaps have some sway in many of the Romney states, 8 out of 10 of which are red to magenta. McCain has overwhelming numbers, but a lot of those are in blue states, which will be tough to keep in the general election, especially given how low the Republican primary turnouts have been compared to the Democrats. The Republicans will need to do something to bring voters out of their homes and offices on November 4.

My guess is that Huckabee will want a say in this. One group he might bring back are the many Latino voters that Bush won over four years ago. Huckabee lines up well on issues with a large percentage of Latino voters: he is pro life and pro-religion (not only are Latinos among the more religious Americans, they make up the fastest growing _evangelical_ Christians in America); he cares about poverty; as a governor he favored giving educational access and other benefits to children of undocumented residents. For many traditional-minded Latinos, he could turn the GOP ticket into attractive alternative to Clinton or Obama.

Yet, for us Democrats such an arrangement _might_ still work out well. With more than a little bad blood between the two front runners, things are likely to be tougher than they should have been for the Dems this year, given the unpopularity of the outgoing elephant in the oval office (that’s not a slight – that’s their mascot! If he were a Dem, I may have called him something else). Plus, if Clinton is the nominee, that might ignite the Republican base and may even dishearten some of the ardent anti-Clinton Democrats (I’ve never met an anti-Obama Democrat).

But the presence of Huckabee or someone very similar might cancel that out. Although it might seem like a plausible strategy for McCain, it may backfire BIG by reenergizing any previously disheartened Democrats, who may be willing to take a chance on McCain but not on a proselytizing, anti-feminist theocrat like Huckabee being a heartbeat away (this is serious, John McCain is a 71 year old cancer survivor). Besides, the McCain-Huckabee ticket might be the Republican nightmare: an unreliable maverick and a sometimes dovish fiscal liberal!

Religion alone might not bring deliverance.

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