Republican Coalition Politics

Ex-Bush aide/Giuliani aide/current Romney endorser Patrick Ruffini writes:

" seems to me that the conservative establishment’s decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder."

Left unasked is precisely why the establishment felt more threatened by Mike Huckabee that it did by even John McCain. And not just the pro-business, anti-tax wing of the professional conservative establishment: the faith wing, too, from the Family Research Council to various members of the Arlington Group who cast their lot with Fred Thompson, a conservative, to be sure, but someone of an undefined protestant faith who didn't seem to go to church much.

My theory -- and it remains a theory -- is that Huckabee threatened these interests so much because he never depended on them in the past and would never depend on them in the future. In the sense that these interests mediated between leaders and rank-and-file conservatives, Huckabee was able to bypass the mediators and speak directly to faith voters -- the hard core corps of moral conservatives who tend to compromise about 20 to 35% of any given electorate, more so in the South and Midwest.

Another theory, propounded by the likes of David Kuo and other evangelicals, is that Huckabee's economic message (gasp) really did resonate with a large number of evangelical voters -- not just his "undiluted" faith message.

“The question is whether that coalition of self-appointed religious conservative leaders carries any weight with the evangelical grassroots anymore,” Kuo told me for an article in National Journal. “The most conservative religious right base will go with them. But the interesting thing is what happens to the growing middle of evangelical voters for whom abortion isn't the only thing, for whom social justice matters, for whom torture is an affront to God and a moral society. I think McCain will pick up a bunch of those voters.”