S.E. Cupp, though, thinks Huckabee should be taken seriously and shouldn’t be underestimated in the context of 2016. And she’s right. Some conservatives are dismissing his potential, writing that he’s running for president as a liberal blogger. Huckabee certainly does break with the party on old-age entitlements and free trade – here he is denouncing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Investment treaty as cronyism that will hurt American workers. But to suggest that this perspective doesn’t have a significant faction of support on the American right is just foolish.
The fact is that a lot of people who consider themselves Republicans who don’t have advanced degrees, fellowships, or work in conservative policy agree with Mike Huckabee about this sort of thing. There are plenty of people who consider themselves Republicans because of abortion and guns who are still largely sympathetic to arguments that free trade and free markets hurt American workers. Not a majority, not even a plurality, but enough to give Huckabee a boost. “That telegenic and likable but inconveniently socially conservative political survivor can’t possibly be a factor because he’s suspicious of international trade deals and Social Security cuts” is the sort of thing a lot of people in politics and media say without realizing how nonsensical it is.
Mike Huckabee’s message is essentially a tribal one, not a coherent or consistent philosophy. It’s a timid, cynical agenda wrapped in a hodge-podge of faux-populist status quo Pepperidge Farm Remembers nostalgia. It plays wonderfully with Huckabee’s tribe, and decently well outside of it (even to the point that many of those who disagree with him find him endearing). Remember: three short years ago we were wondering whether a sweater-vested Rick Santorum, someone whose throwback policy views are generally identical to Huckabee’s without any of the charming packaging, could actually win Ohio. Of course those views placed within a person with a preacher’s gift for retail could make political noise. And that’s actually more of a problem for conservatives than it is for the Republican Party as a whole.