Friday, February 1, 2008

Huckabee should stay in

What is extremely amusing is that some self-styled conservatives are calling for Huckabee to drop out, saying that he owes it to the conservative movement to stop McCain.

Let's see -- this is the same group of conservative pundits and PAC's who torpedoed Huckabee's campaign by savagely painting his record in the worst light while ignoring all of Mitt Romney's failings as a conservative. Their point was that Huckabee was a liberal -- so why are they worrying about whether Huckabee will take votes from Romney? If McCain and Huckabee are evil twin liberals, then they should split the evil Republican vote between them, and hurt only each other.

What exactly does Huckabee owe the conservative establishment? Given how he was treated, exactly nothing -- and that's what he should give them at this point. There will be a time for Huckabee to figure out how to put a broader coalition together for his political future -- but now is not the time for that. There will also be a time to get behind the eventual nominee, whoever that is. But for right now, a vote for Huckabee is a vote for Huckabee -- not one for McCain.

Romney spent millions of dollars on negative ads in order to destroy Huckabee. And now Huckabee is supposed to drop out in order to help this guy defeat McCain, a candidate who has treated Huckabee with respect throughout the campaign?

The truest, bluest conservative in the race was Duncan Hunter. He is supporting Mike Huckabee, and not the conservative establishment's latest cause -- Mitt Romney. Maybe he knows something about just how conservative Huckabee really is, and how unconservative Romney really is?

One of the most disappointing things about this race has been the highly prejudicial way in which talk-radio and conservative columnists have worked to eliminate one Republican candidate after another.

The irony is that they are supporting Romney to the hilt, exaggerating his virtues and ignoring his faults. In another race where there was a real conservative, these same pundits would be savaging Romney, taking him down for the count. The only reason they are supporting Romney so strongly is that he is the only non-McCain candidate left standing after they had ignored, failed to ignite, or destroyed all of the other candidates. They ran out of ammunition after spending it all mowing down Huckabee's candidacy.

Frankly, it is hard not to be sick of this whole game of trying to pretend that the conservative movement has any ability to control the Republican party. It can only do it when it has a strong candidate of its own. And this year, they didn't have one.

And this conservative establishment doesn't deserve to pick the GOP's nominee. With their gross distortions of Huckabee and McCain -- and their exaggerations of Romney's virtues, they have shown a lack of intellectual honesty and respectability.

Interestingly, MH finds agreement with no less than Jonah Goldberg, one of our less favorite conservative writers (although much of our dislike of him is based on left-over memories of his earliest and mouthiest stage at National Review Online. He has developed a little more humility, maturity, and restraint since those days.)

Goldberg chides the National Review folks for the over-the-top way in which they have gone after John McCain. And Mr Goldberg is hardly alone -- quite the contrary.

Most importantly, Republican voters are disagreeing with the conservative establishment. With the exit of Giuliani, McCain has leaped to nearly 50% support -- in a 3 man race. This is nothing to sniff at.

But getting back to Huckabee, he should absolutely not drop out. And conservative pundits shouldn't care -- after all, they were the ones who determined that Huckabee was a liberal -- not a conservative. Instead of just saying that Huckabee was a particular variety of conservative within the coalition, they insisted on calling him "liberal" in order to sandbag him more effectively.

So why, exactly, would Huckabee be "splitting the conservative vote" -- when he isn't a conservative in the first place? By urging Huckabee to drop out and endorse Romney -- or at least leave the field to Romney -- all of Huckabee's critics are admitting that they were exaggerating just a wee bit when labelling Huckabee a liberal.

And with that in mind, why should we believe them now, when they claim that there is a world of difference between McCain and Romney? To see stark differences between these two requires an act of intellectual dishonesty that is breathtaking in its audacity. Romney is a Massachusetts liberal Republican. The fact that he is now wearing a new intellectual costume doesn't change that.

It requires giving McCain grief he doesn't deserve -- and it requires giving Romney credit he has never earned. Conservatives need to be honest enough with themselves to acknowledge that they didn't have a candidate this year. Are the earnest promises of a man who just reached political puberty at age 60 more to be relied on than McCain's unwaivering sense of honor and willingness to do the unpopular?

Give us the guy whose flaws we know intimately, if one must choose between Romney and McCain. Romney's record is that of a moderate to liberal Massachusetts governor. He has, at root, less to show that proves he is a conservative at heart than does Sen. McCain, and we can only hope that Montana caucus voters have the sense to see that before falling for the idea that Romney is a conservative Ninja warrior.

Choosing him as the lesser of two evils is a respectable reason to support Romney. But the idea that the Republican party will fall apart under McCain -- and that Romney is the guy to come riding to the rescue of the conservative movement? Not buying it.


David said...

As a good Republican, can you give me any insight into why so many of the conservative talk pundits hate McCain so much? It's a mystery to me.

Montana Headlines said...

Someone put it very well the other day. When John McCain was in Vietnam being tortured by the commies, he reportedly was always telling his captors "f@#$ you!" It's just a part of who he is.

He already had an independent streak, but after the conservative establishment rallied behind W in 2000, he was, shall we say, less than receptive to criticism from the conservative pundits who had rejected him.

So when he was going about solving things he saw as problems (campaign finance, immigration...) and was cooperating with Dems to make it happen, and the conservative pundits opposed him, he basically responded by saying "f#$% you" to them.

Particularly in private, he reportedly questioned the integrity and ethics of those who opposed McCain-Feingold, and implied that those who opposed the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill were mean at best and bigots at worst. And they of course responded in kind.

Bottom line: this is a lot of inside baseball, and people allowed some things to get personal that shouldn't be.

Fault lies on both sides, IMHO. I'm much more a fan of Mike Huckabee's public persona (there are those who say that behind the scenes, he can be touchy, too,) whereby he takes personal attacks in stride. McCain isn't as good at that, and as a politician, he ought to be better at not getting personal.

And conservative pundits do best when they advocate on issues, and don't create enemies lists. They have to understand that every politician is going to let them down, because every politician needs someone besides adherents of a particular political ideology order to get elected.

The conservative pundits really made McCain into enemy number one who did bad things for bad reasons. Now, in order to work with McCain, they are going to have to swallow their pride -- and that's hard to do.

And of course, when things get personal, they also get irrational. I don't think that opposition to McCain as such is irrational, mind you. There are issues that are underlying the talk-radio opposition.

It is the tone of the opposition that is irrational. The tone of the opposition to Huckabee was likewise irrational and beyond anything that reason could explain. It is just disproportionate to their "crimes" against conservatism -- and it is especially irrational when the goal of all of these attacks is to get someone like Mitt Romney elected, whose track record is anything but conservative.

carol said...

Randy Vogel did a fine job speaking for Huckabee here yesterday.

David said...

Thanks for the reply. McCain has a mean streak, no doubt about it, but if conservative pundits really think they would be happier with Hillary Clinton, then they have lost all reason.

Montana Headlines said...

Yes, Randy Vogel has done a good job for the Huckabee campaign, as has the state chairman, Steve Daines.

Daines was asked by Huckabee to get involved relatively late in the process -- he has really worked hard at it, however, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility for Huckabee to win Montana (although it is possible that he could conceivably finish 3rd or 4th, as well -- it is just so hard to handicap this race.)

If the Lt. Gov. wanted to see an example of someone getting in late and pushing hard for his candidate, he could have asked Steve Daines for tips.

Dan said...

John McCain is trying to cheat and lie to win this election. It's just like when he cheated on his disabled wife and eventually divorced her for his rich, younger mistress.

It's also like the Keating 5, when McCain cheated the American tax payers out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since McCain can't really talk about his senate record (amnesty, against tax cuts, 50 cent gasoline tax, etc.) he tries to play up his "character". I think his character is despicable. Cheating on and divorcing a crippled wife, wow that's bad.

Mitt is going all the way!!!

Mcdav said...

At this point of the game, Huckabee needs to leave and let the heavyweights duke it out. His campaign has not gotten anywhere since his very big win in Iowa where the majority of the Evangelical movement with Pasters tried to launch him into the national spotlight. However, at this point of the race and understanding more of his background as Gov of Arkansas, a vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain which indirectly a vote a democratic win in November. Thompson was the other conservative choice but he's out, It's only time to rally around Romney and Montana has a very good chance to do that on Tues. Feb 5.

Montana Headlines said...

Dave, can't disagree with your assessment of some of McCain's actions and positions in the past.

What I disagree with is the notion that Romney is some sort of great conservative. But I appear to be in the minority on that point.

If Huckabee dropped out, it might help Romney's shot at the nomination. But then again, if Romney dropped out, it might help Huckabee have more of a shot at it. Huckabee is a far more adept campaigner and a far more likable guy than Romney.

Truth to be told, if the party got behind Huckabee, he would be a far stronger general election candidate than Romney would be with the party united behind him.

If Huckabee is pulling conservative votes away from Romney, then he must be a conservative. I'm glad that this is finally being acknowledged.

Ed Kemmick said...

Mr. Headlines, you are all mixed up. You keep saying that if Huckabee's departure from the race would help Romney, he must be conservative. It is only the Big Lie that people eventually will believe if you keep repeating it. The truth will never penetrate the skulls of those who insist on denying it.

Montana Headlines said...

Ed, you are right that the truth is often harder to pound home than are lies -- especially Big Lies.

But note that I offered a choice to my faithful readers who may have bought into the idea that Huckabee is a liberal.

One choice is that Huckabee actually is at least as conservative as they say Romney is.

The other is that Romney is just as liberal as they say Huckabee is.

But if one is to claim that the Huckabee vote would go to Romney if only Huckabee would get out -- one of the above has to be more or less true.

Either way, conservative pundits who engage in this fiction are exaggerating.