Thanks to Steve Hayward for his post below. But, with all due respect, I don’t think he deserves any dibs. We’ve been discussing the Huck-Dean comparison, which is in some ways quite instructive, for weeks here at Berry College. And the most obvious possibility is that Huck will flame out like Dean. But there are differences: Dean had become the establishment candidate soon before imploding. He was endorsed, remember, by Steve’s good friend Al Gore, and many, many others. The Republican "establishment," meanwhile, has shown nothing but contempt for Huck, and that’s not likely to change. So the new man from Hope continues to benefit from the "outsider," "man of the people against the interests" perception. What united Democrats in 2004 was hatred for Bush, and the perception that any relatively moderate, uncontroversial candidate could beat him. As soon as it seemed Dean could really get the nomination, he suddenly seemed too risky. The most important thing was not that any particular Democrat win, but that Bush lose. It suddenly seemed obvious to the Democrats that the "electable alternative" was Kerry. (Boy, were they wrong!)
The Republicans aren’t united by hatred of Hillary; Hillary hatred ain’t what it used to be. And it’s not obvious who the electable alternative to Huckabee is. Giuliani has been fading for months, has not had good press, is conservative only on issues on which the Republicans seem unpopular and on the defensive (health care, Iraq, even more tax cuts), has not campaigned well, and missed numerous opportunities to reach out to social conservatives (by, for example, being against ROE).
Romney is just starting to show some character, but he has a way to go. Thompson and McCain seem too old and sort of yesterday’s news. In general, they all seem like yesterday’s news, parts of a party that now deserves to surrender the White House and give the other guys a chance.
But I’m in favor of giving McCain a close second look, simply because he joins Huck in scoring high in authenticity. The Republican establishment is discredited for lots of reasons, and the party really, really needs an outsider. McCain is trying to be one. Huckabee certainly is one. I agree with those who who say he’s surely too evangelical to be elected, and that we really don’t know much about him. He would certainly be a very high-risk nominee. But that criticism only works if there’s confidence that someone else can be elected. And, let’s face it, most astute Republicans are pretty despondent about their party’s prospects next November. I’m not endorsing Huck (far from it), but Republicans shouldn’t be smug about cooler heads prevailing against him.