Conservative Crack-up?

Rick Moran artfully describes the impact of Mike Huckabee on the conservative coalition. Like many, he sees the rise of Mike Huckabee as a destructive force to Reagan's three cornered conservative movement - one that has drawn thirty years of electoral success from conservatism as applied to foreign affairs, economics, and social policy.

For years, Democrats and liberals have, in my view, overstated the influence of evangelicals on the Republican Party. We will now see. If Huckabee succeeds in breaking up the Republican coalition, we will know that the Religious Right has become, or was always, the foundation of our movement.

But I am skeptical. I have always believed that the core of the Reagan revolution was based on national security and conservative economics. Reagan himself was a religious man, but not an evangelical (like Bush), and certainly not dogmatically religious. Bush won the 2004 elections by winning 99 of the 100 fastest growing counties in America. In my view, Bush's religion was inconsequential to most Republicans.

The Huckabee boom looks a great deal like the primary run of Howard Dean. In 2004, Dean was able to build a great deal of momentum around the left wing of the Democrat Party. Alienated by the more conventional members of the party, left wing Democrats failed to drive their views across the broader party electorate. When Democrats had to seriously consider their choice in the context of the general election, they quietly chose the "safe" candidate, and Howard Dean was quickly marginalized.

In a couple of weeks, I expect that same thing to happen to Mike Huckabee. This opens to door for a more conventional candidate. Moran notes that:

Perhaps the only candidate who could successfully bridge the gap between social and libertarian conservatives would be Mitt Romney whose values based campaign is more ecumenical in nature and whose credentials as a mainstream conservative are more or less intact.

Although I believe Iowa may in fact fall to Huckabee, it is a better bet that Romney will be the candidate that the broader Republican Party considers "electable". As such, Ronald Reagan's coalition will survive to fight on in the general election.

2 comments:

Terry Cowgill

12:25 PM

The analogy to Dean seems an apt one. I wonder if Huck's comments about the LDS church will be the equivalent of his "scream." Even if he wins Iowa, I don't think he will do well in NH, but polls do show Huck leading in your home state, so it's anyone's guess. If the GOP nominates Huck, it could be McGovern all over again.

Jake

12:27 PM

As HH has said, if it's Huck, we lose 55 states.