Rich – I agree that much of the conventional wisdom is being challenged by Huckabee’s surge. However I’d make a few points. Yesterday I noted in response to one of your posts that Hillary’s numbers were sagging at precisely the moment the situation in Iraq is moving to her position. That seemed counter-intuitive. But maybe it’s not. Maybe the improving situation in Iraq buys some flexibility for some Democrats who felt that the gravity of Iraq required some compromise with political reality and hence support for Hillary. Or maybe not.
But what doesn’t seem nearly so counter-intuitive is a slide for Rudy at precisely the moment the war seems less pressing to many Americans. The perception that things are on a good (though by no means perfect) path in Iraq (and, if the NIE is to believed, Iran) might be giving conservative voters a sense of freedom to flirt with the other candidates. The conventional wisdom wasn’t wrong that without the war on terror Rudy Giuliani’s campaign is hopeless.
Also, valid or not, lots of people think Rudy’s the guy to beat Hillary (a point Rudy has pressed harder than anyone else). So the fact that Hillary’s stumble coincides with an erosion of support for Rudy isn’t surprising either, at least not theoretically.
Lastly, the conventional wisdom has long been that if there’s another terrorist attack on American soil it would be bad for Democrats (just because the public expression of this conventional wisdom makes liberals very angry doesn’t mean it’s not true). Well, I think for many of the same reasons, if there were another terrorist attack it would be terrible — politically speaking – for Huckabee and Ron Paul and a boost for Rudy and John McCain (I’m not sure what it would do for Romney).
In short, the conventional wisdom was right that the war on terror changed the political climate. It may be that the conventional wisdom is less and less applicable because a growing number of Republicans and Democrats no longer feel the war on terror is that pressing.