During the Family Research Council’s summit Friday and Saturday I got to meet some of my blogging brethren in the flesh – for example, I was surprised to learn that N.Z. Bear is not actually a bear in a tie and fedora as his logo suggests – and while chewing the fat on the GOP primary and how the candidates were doing with the FRC crowd, I think it was Bear who said, “you can make a case that none of these candidates will win the nomination. But somebody has to.”
That sentiment feels even stronger this morning. On paper, the big winner is Mike Huckabee, blowing away the rest of the field among the conference attendees.#more#
Huckabee is something of an enigma in this race. He blew the doors off the place in his speech, but he’s been doing that, in one form or another, in almost every debate or candidate forum since the race began. But that unrivaled personal charisma and rhetorical prowess hasn’t (yet) yielded enough financial resources to make a serious run at it. You don’t get elected president in today’s world by raising a million dollars a quarter.
Am I harsh cynic for that conclusion? I’d say look at history – John Kerry, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, Bill Clinton – none of these guys were underfunded in their successful efforts for their party’s nomination. (Yes, Kerry loaned his campaign $6 million financed by a mortgage on his Boston home at one point, but he had raised $4 million in the preceding quarter, and $7.5 million the quarter before that.) Money doesn’t guarantee success, as President Gramm, Forbes, Perot, and Dean can attest, but it is extraordinarily difficult to win when you’re supremely underfunded compared to your rivals.
One or two readers think I’m downplaying Huckabee in my coverage. He’s come a long way, and with Brownback’s departure, and Fred not locking up the religious conservative vote (more on that later), he’s clearly the guy at the back of the first tier and gaining, no longer just the guy at the top of the second tier.
Besides wondering if Huckabee can keep up when all the top-tier candidates are on the airwaves, I’d offer two other cautionary notes before riding the wave of Huckmentum.
In terms of state polls, the only place Huckabee’s getting traction is Iowa. Right now, he doesn’t have the resources to spread himself too thin. Let’s say he does something fantastic, places a close second in Iowa. If New Hampshire is seven days later, does he have enough time to turn that into a decent showing? In two weeks, can he organize enough of an effort in South Carolina? Can he put together phone banks, door-knockers, rallies, etc.? It’s not impossible to imagine, but extremely difficult.
The other thing is, as much as social conservatives are not comfortable with the thought of Giuliani as the nominee, fiscal conservatives don’t like Huckabee. They’re burning him in effigy at the Club for Growth. Erick suggests Huckabee could tear apart the conservative coalition more than Giuliani. I had figured that once it came down to Rudy and Not Rudy, that the social conservatives (and perhaps some 527s) would push hard and put Not Rudy over the top. Perhaps we would see a similar push from fiscal conservative groups if the race comes down to Huck and Not Huck.
Of course, that raises the possibility that i the race came down to Giuliani vs. Huckabee… could it mean a brief all-out war between the SocialCons and FiscalCons?