That’s what National Review — under Rich Lowry’s leadership — said about Howard Dean in 2004. Now, Lowry writes that the Democrats must be saying the same thing about Governor Huckabee:
The ghost of Howard Dean haunts the pundit class. As soon as a candidate of either party spikes up in the polls, he is compared with Dean, who had a spectacular boomlet in the second half of 2003 only to deflate as soon as people began to vote in early 2004.
After many false prophecies, Dean circa 2008 has finally arrived. He is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Not because he will inevitably blow himself up in Iowa. But because, like Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.
Like Dean, Huckabee is an under-vetted former governor who is manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States. Like Dean, he is rising toward the top of polls in a crowded field based on his appeal to a particular niche of his party. As with Dean, his vulnerabilities in a general election are so screamingly obvious that it’s hard to believe that primary voters, once they focus seriously on their choice, will nominate him.
The GOP’s social conservatism inarguably has been an enormous benefit to the party throughout the past 30 years, winning over conservative Democrats and lower-income voters who otherwise might not find the Republican limited-government message appealing. That said, nominating a Southern Baptist pastor running on his religiosity would be rather overdoing it. Social conservatism has to be part of the Republican message, but it can’t be the message in its entirety.