In the midst of an engaging back-and-forth with Reihan about Mike Huckabee, Daniel Larison writes:
Incidentally, aside from his having an agreeable personality and executive experience, what substantially distinguishes Huckabee’s social conservatism plus populist streak from a similar Gary Bauer-type candidacy? What policies does Huckabee advocate that should make him more appealing than a Bauer?
Right, that's the rub: Huckabee has the rhetoric of a reformist (Sam's Club?) Republican, but when it comes to interesting domestic policy ideas that distinguish him from the rest of the field, he's got ... um ... this. (The Ponnuru plan, meanwhile, which would be an obvious fit with his rhetoric, languishes without a GOP champion.) Still, even without much in the way of innovative policy proposals, having the whole "agreeable personality and executive experience" thing down isn't small potatoes: Gary Bauer, after all, was a D.C. activist with little charisma and next-to-zero leadership experience, and as such (and I like Gary Bauer!) was a preposterous standard-bearer for any kind of reformist conservatism, whereas Mike Huckabee is a successful and popular former governor of a red-to-purple state, whose track record in government compares favorably to most of his competitors in the GOP field. There's no question that Huckabee would need to flesh out his agenda to make himself anything more than an early-primary spoiler, and I agree with Daniel that there may be more-impressive candidates waiting to take up the "different kind of Republican" mantle come 2012. But even now, he's a vastly more interesting political figure than Gary Bauer ever was.