The Once and Future Future of the GOP

There was a time when I was firmly convinced that Mike Huckabee was going to be the Republican Party's nominee in 2008. Now I think that looks very unlikely. Nevertheless, noting a Rasmussen poll that has Huckabee marching into second place in Iowa, Andrew correctly notes that Huckabee "really does represent the GOP that Bush and Rove have helped create: based on fundamentalist religion and dedicated to massive government spending on the needy as a sign of one's own virtue." But what he represents is the Republican Party that Bush and Rove have created in terms of their electoral base. Which is why in Iowa, where the fact that he doesn't have much in the way of money or support from movement conservative elites doesn't hurt him so much, he's doing very well:


Nationally, though, he's in fifth place and it was felt necessary to push Fred Thompson into the race to fill the "white Protestant southern guy" demographic even though Huckabee already fit the bill. And the problem seems to be, basically, that even though Huckabee hasn't proposed much in the way of bold policies on the campaign trail, he just doesn't adequately meet the threshold for fanatical devotion to the interests of the rich to make it on today's institutional right.

As governor, he operated as a pragmatist, sometimes relying on mild and generally non-progressive tax hikes to meet balanced budget requirements without further denuding already low-service Arkansas of public services and for his trouble he gets trashed by the Club for Growth and is basically a non-starter as a figure in national Republican politics. Nevertheless, the logic of something like Huckabeeism (call it Sam's Club conservatism) is pretty compelling, and if the Republicans get thwacked in 2008 more conservative might begin to see it. The question remains, however, of who's supposed to pay for it?