The Huckabee Strategy

So far as I can tell, his campaign is calculating that it needs to do well (second place, ideally) in Michigan, and that South Carolina is a must-win; thus they’re competing in both states, but betting more heavily on the second one. You can see why they’re thinking that way, but after watching last night’s debate it occurred to me that South Carolina might actually be tougher ground for Huckabee to fight on. Already, McCain’s New Hampshire momentum has carried him out to a lead in S.C., and this time around he’s got the state’s GOP establishment in his corner; moreover, if Huckabee more or less concedes first place in Michigan to the Senator, a win up north will give McCain yet another momentum boost going into South Carolina, with only a few days between the two primaries for Huckabee to make up the lost ground. And in Michigan, Huckabee has Romney as his foil, which is more or less ideal for his purposes; in the Palmetto State, as we saw last night, he’ll have another good ol’ southern boy, Fred Dalton Thompson, trying to tear pieces out of his hide. When you consider Michigan’s economic woes, McCain’s support for cap-and-trade, the state’s considerable evangelical population, and the current polls – which place Huck as close to first there as he is in South Carolina – you could make a case that the Huckabee campaign should be going all out up north, both because an outright win might be attainable and because only with an outright win can they hope to hold off Thompson and leapfrog past McCain down south.

The counter-argument, I suppose, is that Michigan’s open primary, will all those independents crossing over, more or less guarantees McCain a win there however Huck decides to play it. But one of the premises of Huckabee’s campaign is that his message can bring independents to the polls as well - the socially-conservative, economically-anxious, Sam's Club sort of swing voters, that is. It seems like Michigan would be as good a place as any to put that theory to the test.