The Limits of Huckabee

Rich Lowry's column is tough on him but largely fair, I think. Despite his populist (or pseudo-populist, as Rod Dreher puts it) flourishes, Huckabee has conspicuously failed to break out of his evangelical base, and while I think Rich slightly underestimates the extent to which the media coverage (David Brooks and E.J. Dionne's favorable assessments aside) has helped ensure his marginalization - he got no bounce from Iowa in part because all the press wanted to talk about immediately afterward was McCain - the bulk of the responsibility has to rest with Huck himself, who hasn't found a graceful way to transition away from just being the candidate of evangelical identity-politics. His current wave of unsavory South Carolinian pandering - on illegal immigration, on the Confederate flag - looks like an increasingly-desperate attempt to appeal to a broader Joe-Sixpack constituency, but even if it works in the short term (and it probably won't) it's likely going to ensure his marginalization in the long run, by depriving him of the favorable media coverage that was part of his initial success.

If he does pull out South Carolina, maybe he'll get one last chance to hit the re-set button. But I think it's too late: the narrative of his campaign has been established, in the minds of voters and the press, and once set a narrative is hard to change.