A clever ploy, although I don’t really buy it. Whether or not Huck had run the ad, voters are going to want him to explain stuff like this. Geraghty puts it well in a piece this morning aimed at the Huck supporters who are so quick to float religious defenses for the things he says:
[O]ne shouldn’t have to be an evangelical to “get” Huckabee. His campaign has been marked by a disturbing pattern — he says something that appears to be a strikingly controversial statement intertwining his faith and modern politics, it gets a negative response, and then we are reassured that we didn’t really hear what we heard; that his words had a much more innocuous meaning. It’s hinted that the benevolent interpretation was obvious to evangelicals, and that only those on the outside would interpret such comments uncharitably; as his campaign spokesman put it regarding the “not human” comment, “most people” would recognize what “most Christians” do.
Once or twice it’s believable; after that it starts to sound like that old refrain, “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”…
And for those of us outside that [Huckabee/evangelical] bond, what’s the pitch to get us to mark Huckabee’s name on the box? Good jokes? The irony of seeing Hillary defeated by a guy from Hope, Arkansas? A campaign theme of “I’m one of you” only works for folks who see themselves as “you”, not as “the other guys.”
Precisely my point in the post about wives submitting graciously to their husbands. Evangelicals get what he’s saying but whether the non-evangelical majority will also “get it” depends on how much you trust them to (a) pay attention, (b) give him a fair hearing, and (c) have the patience to sit through explanations for what will likely be more than just a few questionable statements along these lines. Geraghty points to the one about how a power that’s “not human” is supposedly fueling his rise in the polls, a remark at which even most religious-minded HA readers seemed to be aghast. Are we going to have an incident like that every month or so? Because if so, like Jim says, after the third or fourth one a lot of people are going to have that “me or your lying eyes” reaction.
The deeper question, left untouched by Geraghty, is whether Huck’s nomination would become a de facto referendum on which religious beliefs are sufficiently incredible to the majority that a serious adherence to them would disqualify the candidate. If Huck seriously believes that his rise in the polls is attributable to prayer and not simple political appeal to voters, is that itself a bridge too far for most? And if it is, do the Democrats dare challenge him on it?
Meanwhile, the man who stood up wonders if he stood up too late…
Update: Is New Hampshire the firewall for Romney that it may not be for Hillary? He’s still up 15 there, which dovetails with his point about Huck faring less well when he doesn’t have a big evangelical population to leverage.