What Happened to Huck?


Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott has this dispeptic assessment of the Huckabee failure:

The zombie march of Giuliani’s and Fred Thompson’s maladroit campaigns will entrance political dissecters for seasons to come but less remarked is the misguided direction the Huckabee campaign took after its win in Iowa. Despite his financial disadvantages, Huckabee had a real opportunity to bust open and make himself a real player and what does he do?–instead of broadening his appeal and message and opening up his passing game, he escorts himself down a narrow lane to the frayed, far-right fringe by crudely pandering on the tired old Confederate flag controversy (“If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole”–this from a preacher man) and proposing a pet list of fatuous, unpassable Constitutional amendments. He became Duncan Hunter with a grin, a most unappetizing combination day or night.

But I wonder to what extent Huck could have broadened “his appeal and message,” given the nature of GOP primary voters. What seemed to happen was that he, or his advisers (e.g. Ed Rollins) seemed to push him away from the things that had broadened his appeal in the first place–at least his appeal to journalistic types. Then, after getting beaten up for being soft on immigrants, he turned hard. And rather than get specific about helping the not-rich, he just seemed content just to give them a bit of rhetorical hugging–in contrast to proposing, say, less in the way of tax breaks for the wealthy? (Perhaps the less said about the Fair Tax, the better.) On the war, it was just the typical GOP talking points. In other words, his post-Iowa approach was to become just another standard-brand GOP candidate with a few more red-meat issues, a smiley face, and an ability to win votes from the churchiest evangelicals in the coalition. Would he have done better to stick with something like the original program? I doubt it. If he’d done so, he would likely have ended up like a Ron Paul on the domestic side, a voice crying in the Republican wilderness–and no possibility of a VP nod. The home of faith-based progressivism is, for the foreseeable future, on the other side of the aisle, I’d say.