The Electable Huckabee

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The trouble with having Bill Kristol as a New York Times columnist is not just that he's prone to saying substantive things about the issues that I disagree with. He's also the kind of guy who when he goes out on a weird limb and says Mike Huckabee would have a good chance of winning in a general election, you immediately start wondering why he's saying that.

"Because he believes it" doesn't tend to rank very high on the list. That's his rep, and based on his record it seems like a deserved rep. But when you read your morning paper and find yourself wondering why, exactly, its authors are trying to mislead you, then your morning paper is suddenly not so useful.

But if we entertain the premise that Kristol does think Huckabee would make a good general election candidate, then what he's doing is conflating the fact that Huckabee is the most appealing natural politician in the Republican field with the idea that the actually existing Huckabee would do well. Someone like Huckabee -- someone with something comparable to his ability to connect with people -- could be a very successful figure in American politics. Someone like Huckabee could be Bill Clinton. But Huckabee is Huckabee, not a Huckabee-like substitute; a niche product, a white evangelical identity politics candidate.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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