That’s an exaggeration but only a slight one per the dueting pieces this morning from John Fund in the WSJ and Club For Growth president Pat Toomey in NRO. Let’s see: he’s soft on immigration, a nanny-stater on health issues, socially conservative, ethically questionable, and John Edwards-ish on economic policy? Where do I sign up?
Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum and a key backer of his early runs for office, was once “his No. 1 fan.” She was bitterly disappointed with his record. “He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal,” she says. “Just like Bill Clinton he will charm you, but don’t be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office.”
Phyllis Schlafly, president of the national Eagle Forum, is even more blunt. “He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles,” she says. “Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a ‘compassionate conservative’ are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee.”
The business community in Arkansas is split. Some praise Mr. Huckabee’s efforts to raise taxes to repair roads and work with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Free-market advocates are skeptical. “He has zero intellectual underpinnings in the conservative movement,” says Blant Hurt, a former part owner of, and columnist for, Arkansas Business magazine. “He’s hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate.”
A big-government liberal like Mike Huckabee, who takes pleasure in attacking the Republican party as the “party of Wall Street,” will only reinforce the image of Republicans as “the big spenders that they used to oppose.” A Huckabee nomination, even as vice president, will make it impossible for the Republican party to reclaim its brand of fiscal conservatism and limited government, without which it cannot be a majority party again.
Huckabee makes no secret of his desire to turn the GOP leftward, calling himself a “different kind of Republican,” adopting protectionist positions, and peppering his campaign speeches with the kind of class warfare rhetoric one expects to hear from John Edwards. No doubt, this is the reason that the liberal media is so smitten with him.
Instead of talking about curtailing government spending, Huckabee refuses to endorse President Bush’s veto of a vastly expanded S-CHIP. He is an unabashed fan of No Child Left Behind and an opponent of private school choice. Huckabee is also quickly becoming the labor unions’ favorite Republican, recently gaining a union endorsement along with Hillary Clinton.
Why hold Huckabee’s leftist tendencies against him when we’re willing to forgive in Rudy’s and Mitt’s case? Because, unlike them, he shows no signs of changing his ways, even for electoral advantage. He’s ahead of Giuliani and just behind Fred in Iowa per the RCP average, although as Toomey says, he’s clearly only running to place himself in VP contention. Exit question: In light of all this, would adding Huck to the ticket make Rudy more or less likely to win? You’ll have a socially liberal, fiscally conservative top of the ticket and a socially conservative, fiscally liberal bottom. Is that a net gain by picking up independents and social cons or a net loss by giving conservatives like Fund and Toomey even more reason to stay home? I’m guessing the former, especially with Huckabee out on the trail doing what he does best.