They stand athwart the Huckabee surge yelling “stop.” I’m tempted to question the timing and wonder if they rushed it out to try to stanch the bleeding in the polls, but let’s face it: How much sway does any political journal have with caucus-goers, or most rank-and-file conservatives generally? As Ace says, if the race is going to change it’ll have to be talk radio that does it. Do Rush and Hannity want to get on the wrong side of evangelicals by campaigning hard against Huckabee? If he wins the nomination anyway they lose face and potentially provide the left with some choice soundbites in the general. They also potentially jeopardize their White House access in the unlikely event that he wins the election, especially given his reputation for being thin-skinned. Plus, they’d have to push the same candidate; many non-evangelical social cons seem to prefer Fred on the merits, but at this point it’s an open question if he could capitalize even with the talk titans pushing him. Mitt is the only viable social con alternative to Huck, really, which is probably why NR settled on him:
Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country…
Fred Thompson is as conservative as Romney, and has distinguished himself with serious proposals on Social Security, immigration, and defense. But Thompson has never run any large enterprise — and he has not run his campaign well, either. Conservatives were excited this spring to hear that he might enter the race, but have been disappointed by the reality. He has been fading in crucial early states. He has not yet passed the threshold test of establishing for voters that he truly wants to be president.
Exit question: Will talk radio take this as an invitation to line up behind Romney and beat back the Hucka-hordes? And if so, do they do it now, before Huck gains any more ground, or do they wait until after Iowa? Mitt’s still ahead in New Hampshire so there’s no need to panic, but if McCain pulls off the upset there we could be left with a choice between him and Huck as frontrunners going into South Carolina. God help us.
Update: Reader Cory D. e-mails to warn that evangelicals should expect a mighty backlash from non-religious conservatives if they push Huck through and he ends up slaughtered in the general. I said something like that myself a few weeks ago, but where are we going to go? If Huck wins the nomination despite being suspect on pretty much every issue that isn’t a social con hot button, it’ll be proof that they own the party. Where are the libertarian or libertarian-ish votes going to come from, per this supposed backlash, to take the party back?
Update: I imported the comments to the headline item into this post.
Update (Bryan): Was the Romney endorsement at least in part a reaction to the Huckabee surge? Probably, to some extent, if you go by the timing of yesterday’s slam on Huckabee’s foreign policy acumen and then today’s endorsement. Fwiw, the Huckabee/foreign policy article is dead on, imho.