Friday, May 2, 2008

Gov. Huckabee stumps for Sen. Roy Brown in Billings and Bozeman

During the campaign season, Montana Headlines never tried to hide that we thought that while he wasn't the complete package, Gov. Mike Huckabee was a very attractive and intriguing Presidential candidate. He seems genuinely to care about ordinary people and what happens to them, he compiled an impressive record as a conservative Republican governor in a very heavily Democratic state, he wasn't a negative campaigner (his few slips on this score were exceptions that proved the rule,) and he has the consummate communications skills to convey his principles.

Because of what the Club for Growth did to him before the caucus and primary season ever began, it was clear early on that Huckabee was not going to be the Presidential nominee this time around, and that even if he did somehow manage to get the nomination, it was clear that there would be too many "good Republicans" who would be churlish enough to refuse to support him (just as there are "good Republicans" who will, contrary to the example of Ronald Reagan, refuse to support Sen. McCain, thus assisting the Democratic cause up and down the ticket.)

By process of elimination, it was clear, at least to us, even before the Iowa caucuses, that John McCain, in spite of some big problem spots with the Republican base, had the best chance of being a consensus candidate in the GOP who could actually win. We thus unapologetically and enthusiastically support Sen. McCain. The choice seems pretty clear this election season.

But back to Huckabee.

Gov. Huckabee was in Montana doing a fundraiser for private Christian schools in Billings, and stumping for our Governor/Lt. Gov. team of Roy Brown and Steve Daines. He spoke to a packed out GOP breakfast in Billings, and an overflow capacity luncheon in Bozeman. In the process, he again showed that easy and confident ability to campaign, communicate, and connect with voters that on display all through the primary season.

Huckabee's draw was in part seen by the fact that Sec. State Brad Johnson and our State Auditor candidate Duane Grimes were in attendance at the events, as were many local legislative candidates -- the presence of someone of Huckabee's stature is a rising tide that lifts all ships, and we certainly hope that this visit will not only help Brown and Daines, but will benefit Republicans up and down the ticket in Montana through the excitement created by the optimism that Huckabee exudes about the prospects of the Republican Party. It has been clear as the campaign has worn on that all of our statewide candidates see themselves as part of a Republican team that supports each other, so Johnson and Grimes were also there to show their support for Brown and Daines.

Huckabee's presence in Montana at this point in the campaign can be attributed in no small part to the presence of Steve Daines on the ticket, since Daines headed up the Huckabee effort for the Montana caucuses and developed personal contacts with Huckabee and his team. Not surprisingly, Huckabee came across very well in Billings and was an effective fundraiser and high-profile "rally the troops" visitor. He showed that he had familiarized himself both with Sen. Roy Brown and the political situation in Montana.

As a former Chairman of the National Governors' Association (a bipartsian goup) he displayed a confident grasp of both the big picture and the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be a governor, and how important the choice of a governor is. Of course, all of this is what skilled politicians do, but Huckabee's experience in governing and campaigning (and his natural gift for it) showed.

One insightful point that Huckabee made when being interviewed by the Gazette was when he was asked about Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- he noted that really, Rev. Wright at this point has to want Obama to lose. Wright is clearly not backing off on his views that the U.S. is an instrument of racial oppression, so for Obama to win would prove Wright wrong.

The Hoover Institution scholar Shelby Steele wrote a book within the last year about Sen. Obama explaining why he believed that Obama cannot ultimately win the presidency. It is worth listening to Steele discuss his analysis of why this is so, but it ties directly into what Huckabee said in Billings yesterday. Huckabee, in his last re-election campaign for governor, received nearly half of the black vote in Arkansas -- an amazing feat for any Republican in the South, but one which shows that Republicans can indeed connect with minority communities if they care to try to do so.

The governor and the sinestra blogosphere predictably pointed out the differences between some of Huckabee's policies while governor of Arkansas and those that Brown is proposing.

Well, with all due respect, this just proves that not all Republicans have to think alike on every issue, even while sharing similar values and principles, and supporting each other. It also neglects little things like the fact that when Huckabee took office as governor, his legislature was 95% Democratic. While substantial gains were made over his decade in office in gaining Republican legislators, he never did have a Republican legislature to work with.

And regardless, at a time when some prominent Montana Democrats (including our governor and his brother) are giving the impression that they are ready to throw their presumptive nominee under the bus, it is telling that Montana Republican candidates aren't afraid or ashamed to be seen stumping with the guy who lost the Republican nomination. It would be hard to imagine Republican candidates in Montana running from any of the major Republican candidates this year. Quite a difference.

Gov. Huckabee is a solid common-sense conservative with a gift for seeing where the Republican party needs to go -- particularly in terms of tone. His presence in Montana will only help Brown and Daines, and he will be busy on the campaign trail helping Republicans all across America raise money and campaign. He developed a wide network and admiring group of supporters (a great many of whom don't fit the evangelical Christian stereotype,) and he seems determined to use this political capital to help Republicans get elected, starting at the top with Sen. McCain and working up and down the ticket in states across the country.

While, as we pointed out, Steve Daines probably played no small role in making these appearances come together, one suspects that we would have seen Huckabee here in Montana this year offering to stump for a future Gov. Roy Brown regardless.

One wonders how many other former Presidential candidates will take the time to do the same. We hope that Huckabee will be just the first of many.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be even nicer if the Republican presumptive nominee would bother to show up in this state to help our party and candidates the way Hill, Bill, and Barack have brought in the big bucks for the state Democrats.