Monday, October 22, 2007

Y'all might as well give up, guys -- Chuck Norris has spoken; Plus, more on Giuliani vs. Romney and the socially conservative base

Chuck Norris has spoken out endorsing Mike Huckabee for President, that is. And it's been said that he'll do what it takes to help him win. Be afraid, Rudy...

Seriously, Huckabee turned in yet another a solid debate performance, and the pundits are correct in almost universally declaring this to be a true five-way race. Fascinating -- we Republicans just aren't used to this kind of choice, given the GOP habit of having an annointed front-runner seemingly years in advance.

The rest of the field did better than usual and the debate was fairly lively, so it was one of the first debates in which Huckabee hasn't stood out. Still, Huckabee's ability to communicate and connect is equaled by none on that stage -- and he significantly outshines the so-far lumbering Fred Thompson and the stilted John McCain delivery. And those two are his main competition for the "conservative" vote.

While Montana Headlines is still uncommitted in this presidential race, previous posts should make it clear that Fred Thompson drew some early intrigue around here, while Huckabee has of late been stealthing his way to the front of the MH pack -- just as he has been with the rest of the country. Huckabee remains the only candidate who has steadily risen little by little without dropping or plateauing.

In spite of all that John McCain has against him with party faithful, we also confess a certain amount of lingering sympathy for him, as well. While McCain seems like more of a solid Republican that everyone can get behind than he ever has (the most recent Fox poll has him running closer to Clinton than any other Republican,) he seems to have lost his zing -- and it doesn't seem likely that he'll get it back. But then again, his campaign was supposed to be on the verge of folding a couple of months ago. As we have stated before, it wouldn't be wise for anyone to count McCain out.

The many reasons why Rudy Giuliani gives us pause have been detailed in these pages before, but it should be noted that Giuliani has, over time, muted the primary objection to him. In the past, we have said that it was impossible for Giuliani to motivate the entire GOP base to get out and vote, and therefore that he would ultimately be unelectable. His debate performances and his ability to stand by his unpopular past social issue stances and reach out his hand to social conservatives have been impressive, and Giuliani is showing that this might no longer be true.

Right now, Giuliani is showing that he has what it takes to motivate the entire "Reagan coalition," unlikely a person as he is for that task. Huckabee could motivate the entire coalition, as could Thompson and even McCain. Romney still isn't showing signs that he would be able to do that, even though he has honed his rhetorical talking points to hit every check mark on the conservative list.

The problem, of course is consistency: For instance, Romney was pro-life until he ran for Senate against Kennedy -- then he had an epiphany due to apparently discovering a distant relative who was hurt in an illegal abortion. And then he became pro-choice.

Now, just in time for the nomination, Romney has had yet another epiphany about life, and professes to be staunchly pro-life. This basically means that he is willing to say what it takes to get elected, and doesn't have deep convictions of his own. Last night's debate seems to indicate that he learned that his hairstyle wasn't polling well, so he changed that, too.

As Giuliani put it after the recent conference in D.C. for social conservatives, he believes that when it comes right down to it, social conservatives will be more comfortable with a candidate who shows the integrity of telling the truth about what a he believes than in someone who seems to calculate every statement based on which way the wind is blowing.

We suspect that Giuliani is right, and that of the two Northeastern moderate Republicans in the race, he has been the one who has chosen the wiser path to winning over a skeptical conservative base. It still remains to be seen whether he can pull the coalition together and win throughout the heartland, but he is starting to win some conservative skeptics over.

All that said, it remains a fascinating 5-way race, and the performances in the debate last night indicate that almost no matter who wins the nomination, Clinton will have her hands full.

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