Friday, November 9, 2007

Right idea, wrong candidate

Politico's Jonathan Martin has the right idea when he compares Mike Huckabee to a previous campaign. He just picked the wrong candidate to compare Huckabee to.

Huckabee, despite the generally positive press coverage, is not the equivalent of 2000 John McCain. John McCain was loved by the press corps for his availability -- being willing to b.s. on that bus -- his integrity and because he was such a contrast to Bush (record-breaking fundraising vs. shoestring campaign, former Vietnam POW v. Texas National Guard) and the only chance to make the GOP race competitive. Huckabee might be a press darling, but it isn't for the same reasons as McCain.

The former Arkansas governor is really the equivalent of 2004 John Edwards. Both are running in crowded fields to a generally depressed base. Much like the Dems 4 years ago, the Republicans aren't finding anyone they have fallen in love with, so they'll settle for a winner. Huckabee, much like Edwards, is a stronger candidate than his resume would suggest. Other than losing massive amounts of weight, Huckabee never did anything as governor that would distinguish him on a national stage, much as Edwards' Senate career is largely forgettable. Huckabee is an engaging speaker -- when you see him on TV, it is hard not to like him. And much like Edwards, he keeps going up in the Iowa polls at exactly the right time.

And the biggest comparison between the two: you watch them and feel like they are running for vice president. Unlike McCain -- who is probably temperamentally unsuited to the vice-presidency -- Huckabee has run the campaign of a man who wants to get the No. 2 nod. Much like Edwards, Huckabee has refrained from unloading the heavy artillery on the primary opposition. He has criticized Fred Thompson, but Thompson is the only top candidate who wouldn't be helped by having Huckabee as his veep. And Fred started it. Remember that Kerry and Edwards climbed to the top in Iowa by avoiding the Dean-Gephardt napalm war.

GOP audiences seem to love Huckabee, but there is a feeling of, "He would make a great vice president" that surrounds him. He would be a perfect running mate for Rudy or Romney or McCain to shore up support with the base and his folksy style would be the perfect velvet glove for attacks on the opposing ticket. Sound vaguely familiar from four years ago?

This Day and Age: Second Place Victory

For more on This Day and Age, see here.