The unbelievably strong finish to last night’s convention, culminating in Paul Ryan’s powerful acceptance speech, understandably eclipsed some of the earlier speakers on the program, more than one deservedly so. Mike Huckabee’s speech deserves another look, though, both for its content and the effort made to close one of the intraparty gaps many expected to widen with Mitt Romney’s nomination. Huckabee followed my former governor Tim Pawlenty’s odd speech — the nation’s first “tattoo president” is a sales pitch that should have been strangled in the pitch meeting — and at first seemed to follow the same Borscht Belt one-liner strategy as Pawlenty. However, as Huckabee continued, he picked up strength by talking about real issues, and became especially powerful when speaking to evangelicals who might still have some reluctance to vote for a Mormon (quotes from the Weekly Standard):
“Let me clear the air about whether guys like me would only support an evangelical,” Mike Huckabee said Wednesday night during his speech at the Republican National Convention. “Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama, and he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb, and tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care.” …
“I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country.”
At the start of his speech, the trend on Twitter was to poke fun at Huckabee, but that changed after the first couple of minutes. By the end of the speech, even those in the media thought his speech had been the best of the night at that point. It might be easy to overlook this speech after being followed by Condoleezza Rice, Susana Martinez, and Paul Ryan, but it shouldn’t go unremarked, especially because of the supposed tension between Huckabee and Romney from 2008 over the evangelical-Mormon difference. Huckabee gets well-deserved criticism for his support of Todd Akin in Missouri, but last night he went out and made a solid, compelling pitch to a constituency the GOP needs in the game in November, as perhaps the figure within the Republican Party with the highest standing to make that argument.