Monday, February 11, 2008

Mike Huckabee Should Step Aside

Mike Huckabee's strong showing in the weekend's GOP electoral contests have raised the pressures for the McCain campaign to show it can hold down the conservative fort.

But what does Huckabee want?

He can't win the nomination mathematically. So by taking the primaries to the limit, does he strengthen his case to be a leader of the American conservative movement, or does he illustrate his party-pooper credentials, delaying the moment when the GOP can coalesce around its standard-bearer and ramp-up efforts for the November battle against the Democrats?

Time has a interesting analysis of
Huckabee's predicament:
As the polls now stand, Huckabee is a dramatic underdog heading into the February 12 primaries in Virginia and Maryland, with McCain outpolling him by a margin of two to one. But the Huckabee campaign says it has its eye fixed firmly on the March 4 primary in Texas, where Huckabee could benefit from his southern appeal, and lingering conservative skepticism on McCain's positions on campaign finance reform and immigration. Whatever happens, Huckabee's strategists maintain without fail that the candidate will not be swayed by pressure from fellow Republicans to bow out before one candidate reaches 1,191 delegates. On Friday, Huckabee received a call from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, asking him to leave the race, according to someone familiar with the call. Huckabee told his fellow governor no. "We don't care. We're not about the party. We never have been," said Ed Rollins, Huckabee's national chairman, backstage at the Maryland rally. "To a certain extent this is about the people. They get their choice."

In an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press Sunday, Huckabee rejected as "nonsense" the notion that his continued battle against McCain could weaken the Republican party or drain resources from the general election effort. "If our party can't have a thoughtful discussion and some meaningful debate and dialogue about the issues important to us as a party, then we are really not prepared to lead," he said. He has also been quick to reject any notion that could perhaps be endangering his own, long-term political viability at the forefront of the conservative movement, drawing explicit comparisons between his candidacy and Ronald Reagan's in 1976 against the incumbent Gerald Ford. "[The establishment] had all begged him to get out of the race in '76 and not take it to the convention, but he had convictions, and he stood by those convictions," Huckabee told reporters this past weekend. "And now when you talk to Republicans, the Reagan name is the gold standard," he said.

All of which means that the "people", as Rollins describes them, get a few more weeks to hear from a enthusiastic candidate who seems to always see victory, even in the face of defeat. At a press conference Saturday morning, one reporter blurted out what has become for Huckabee a comfortable truth. "Governor, basically you have nothing to lose by staying in," she called from the back of the scrum. Huckabee paused. "Ah," he said, before smiling. "No. I don't guess I do."
Yes, and the longer he remains in the race the less he has to win.

I admire Huckabee's spunk. But if anything, the GOP campaign of '08 has demonstrated the power of circumstances on electoral fortunes. Had Rudy Giuliani not pulled out of New Hampshire, John McCain's victory romp there might have never happened.

Had Fred Thompson not played coy with conservatives excited about his entry into the race last year, perhaps he'd be the one dancing in the moonlight of more media time.

Nope, instead we have the good-hearted pastor from Arkansas hanging on for dear life.

But he's no Ronald Reagan. As Charles Krauthammer said last week, conservatives are eternally waiting for the next Reagan, even though the Gipper was a once-in-a-lifetime political hero.

Huckabee's not in the same league, with all due respect, and he needs to think about Governor Perry's call to step aside. He could really work some miracles then, in rallying his backers to support McCain in his campaign against the Democratic retreatists in the fall.