I’m resisting the idea that he said this purely out of personal pique but I can’t come up with a good alternative strategic explanation. What political benefit is there, in this year of all years, to knock CPAC for being “more libertarian” and “less Republican”? Libertarianism has never had more cachet within the GOP than it has right now; it’s not perfectly synonymous with the tea-party movement (of which Huckabee is predictably complimentary) but it’s close enough, especially with Beck in the role of TPers’ patron saint. Maybe Huck thinks finding any reason to knock an “establishment” event like CPAC will burnish his brand as an outsider? That’d be a goofy read on a conference whose straw poll was won by Ron Paul. Or maybe he thinks there’ll be such a scrum for the libertarian vote among the GOP field in 2012 that he’s better off staking out a position slightly to the left and letting Palin, Paul, etc fight it out for the small-government right. (America’s Greatest Patriot is reportedly undecided on a bid.)
If so, he’s conceding a lot of grassroots energy. Patrick Ruffini:
While I won’t necessarily be rooting for a Paul 2012 candidacy, I *like* the fact that CPAC was shaken up, for two big reasons.
First, it shows that Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty are engaging constructively in the conservative movement. In 2007, the Paulites were an oppositional force trying to submarine the GOP’s commitment to the war on terror, thus threatening traditional conservatives. Today, libertarians and conservatives have come together against Obama’s endless expansion of the State, with Ron Paul supporters supplying creative organizing tactics and boots on the ground.
This leads into my second reason: in terms of grassroots organization, Paul supporters are some of the best — if not the best — that we have. The iconography of the tea party movement is heavily libertarian (think the Gadsden Flag) and that’s no coincidence. If you broke down the organizers and even those in attendance, you’d find more than your fair share of Ron Paul supporters.
Exit question: Is this just Huck’s way of criticizing the lower priority given to social issues this year at CPAC? That’s not to suggest that he would have supported what Ryan Sorba said, but it does make me think that social conservatism will play an even bigger part in his next campaign (if there is one) than we thought. Call it triangulation: Palin takes the small-government grassroots, Romney takes the centrists, and Huck takes the Christian conservatives, banking on the fact that his niche in a three-way race is slightly bigger than the other two. But in that case, why slam a brand like libertarianism that’s glowing right now? Why not just say, “I liked the way they’re heading but think we need to pay more attention to values”?