The EFM Feature

When reading today’s New York Times story on the desperate Brownback (and now Huckabee) attacks on the Governor’s so-called pro-life “flip-flop,” one has to understand the context. Brownback and/or Huckabee may now be facing the final days of their presidential campaigns. If one or the other does not at least beat expectations in the Ames straw poll (especially with Rudy, Thompson, and McCain allegedly not competing), the calls for at least the worse-performing of the pair to drop out of the race will be overwhelming.
And how do they stay in? Not by chipping support away from the candidates who are (allegedly) not competing in Ames, but by attacking the Ames frontrunner, Mitt Romney. They can’t attack him on his actual record in office. They can’t attack him on his experience and readiness for the presidency. All they have is the old, tired flip-flopping charge.
Look, I think both Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee are running for president because they believe there is a scenario under which they can catch lightning in a bottle and be catapulted if not the presidency but to the vice presidency. But if they can’t gain momentum in Iowa, they can’t gain momentum anywhere. New Hampshire is less socially conservative, and after that the states (and stakes) simply grow too big for these poorly funded candidates. So it’s Iowa or bust.
If the Governor can deal a knockout blow to Huckabee and/or Brownback, it will have an enormously clarifying effect on the field. The attacks on the Governor from the right will slacken considerably. Unless Fred Thompson can actually rouse himself to, you know, campaign, the Governor will be the credible conservative candidate in the race.
So, yes, Ames is big. But it’s big not because of Rudy or Fred, but because it will either narrow the field or prolong the agony. C’mon Iowa, let’s clear out the no hope candidates and start the real race for president.

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