The Corner

Huckabee’s Greatest Challenge

The news that Mike Huckabee was leaving Fox to consider a presidential run prompted NRO to run an article of mine from January 2008 about his last run. I defended him from some of the criticisms he got then, but also concluded, based on the first four contests of that presidential cycle, that he was too weak among non-evangelical voters to have a real shot at the nomination. The pattern of support I identified largely continued after those four contests. In Florida, for example, Huckabee carried 29 percent of evangelical primary voters: McCain, Romney, and he had essentially a three-way tie among them. But he won only 4 percent of non-evangelicals, who were 61 percent of the primary electorate, and so his overall total was less than half that of either of those other candidates.

His non-evangelical numbers perked up a bit after Romney exited the race, McCain had the nomination sewn up, and there was nowhere else for anti-McCain conservatives to go. (In Wisconsin, for example, he got 24 percent of the non-evangelical vote to McCain’s 67 percent.) If Huckabee wants to win the nomination this time around, though, I think he’ll have to run a very different kind of campaign, one much lighter on evangelical identity politics.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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