Governor Huckabee likes to say, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad about it.” That’s a good sound bite, but after reading recent pieces in The Weekly Standard and the New York Times, I’m not sure either side of the statement holds water.
We’ve already discussed at some length how short Governor Huckabee falls short of any recognizable conservatism on both foreign policy and fiscal issues — making his “stool” have one less leg than Mayor Giuliani’s, and two less than Governor Romney’s. But how about this business of not being mad about it? He’s already made it obvious that his focus on being a “Christian leader” and (now) wishing people a Merry Christmas is nothing more than a well-veiled attempt to capitalize on evangelicals’ theological objections to Mormonism — and the Weekly Standard shows that he’s big into class warfare, too:
“Many of you will have noticed that I grew up with a last name that opened a lot of doors,” he says. Lowering his voice, speaking as though he were an admissions officer, or the guard at a fancy club, he continues, “‘Well, he’s a Huckabee, we better let him in.’” The crowd loves it. He continues: “In my family, ‘summer’ was never a verb”–the way it is for some. “We summered in hay fields, chicken yards, and all kinds of stuff.”
The battle for Iowa is between Huckabee and Mitt Romney, who has criticized Huckabee on numerous matters–among them illegal immigration (the Arkansan is too soft), national security and foreign policy (he’s naive about Iran, too impressed with diplomacy, dared criticize Bush), and his 10-year record as governor of Arkansas (raised taxes, spent too much, pardoned too many). The conventional wisdom in the press is that, notwithstanding Iowa’s famous reputation for penalizing those who run negative campaigns, Romney may have halted Huckabee’s remarkable surge and may have a shot at winning.
To judge by Huckabee’s performance at these rallies, the Romney assault has put the former governor on the defensive. While he discusses his own positions–for the fair tax, for energy independence, for a new approach to health care–he also devotes more than a little time to responding to Romney’s multi-pronged attacks. Referring to Romney simply as “my opponent,” Huckabee calls the attacks “dishonest and desperate,” and says, “If you want a president who gets elected because he attacks the other guy, then I’m probably not going to be your choice.”
It’s clear that Huckabee doesn’t like Romney, but not just because Romney has gone negative. Huckabee doesn’t like what Romney represents: someone who has the means to outspend him in Iowa 20 to 1 (a ratio Huckabee constantly points out), someone who can “buy” Iowa and perhaps the GOP nomination. America, he tells supporters in Marshalltown, “is not about the people born on third base and who think they just hit a triple. It’s about people who start from nowhere.”
Governor, if you’re so sanguine about who you are, why are you running such a divisive campaign?