Now, here we are six months later. Mit Romney struggles to hang on to his lead in the polls. Rudy Giuliani isn't even on the radar screen in state polls, except in Florida, which he now concedes that he might lose. In fact the only poll Giuliani scores well on is the nation-wide poll, which really doesn't matter, because that's not how this country selects presidential candidates. Basically the nation-wide poll is just a popularity contest, based almost entirely on name recognition. It doesn't factor into the nomination process of political parties during their conventions, nor does it factor into the electoral college during the actual presidential election. So now, as of the end of December 2007, the man of the hour is a formerly obscure GOP candidate by the name of Mike Huckabee, who's campaign up until recently, operated on a shoestring budget. He's been outspent by Mit Romney $20 to $1, and yet Romney can barely stay neck-and-neck with him in Iowa. Huckabee's got him beat in South Carolina, and it looks like Huckabee is within striking distance of Giuliani in Florida. As it stands right now, for all the millions both Giuliani and Romney have spent, the only stronghold Romney can claim is New Hampshire. As for Giuliani, he can't even guarantee he'll win a single primary, not even in Florida, the ONLY Southern state that is supposed to be friendly to him. How did this happen? And what of this man called Mike Huckabee?
Six months ago, the fiscal-conservatives in the Republican Party thought they could nominate a candidate without having to worry too much about those issues most important to social-conservatives. So they went with name recognition, and the elusive perception of "electability." Thus Rudy Giuliani got the funding and media exposure, pushing him to the top of the GOP contenders. Mit Romney was thrown out as a bone to social-conservatives in spite of his weak record on pro-life issues. This was to keep them quiet, with the possibility of him being picked for vice president, should Giuliani win the nomination. Fiscal-conservatives thought the social-conservative would do what they usually do, and follow along like good little puppy dogs, for fear of Hillary Clinton. But something happened six-months ago that nobody expected. The social-conservatives revolted! They gagged on what the GOP offered, and held a "Values Voters" summit, in which they selected their own contender to take the place of Rudy Giuliani. They selected Mike Huckabee.
So Mike Huckabee rose to the top because he became the favorite son of conservative Evangelical voters. He is the living embodiment of a "protest vote" from social-conservatives in the Republican base. Believe me when I say the GOP leadership doesn't want him. They already selected their favorites over six-months ago (Giuliani and Romney). Huckabee is a wrench in their works. His surge in the polls represents a power play by the social-conservative coalition. In effect, what's happening is the social-conservatives are telling the fiscal-conservatives in the GOP something like this...
We're not going to follow your lead anymore. We've followed you for over 40 years, and where has it gotten us? Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, Gay-Marriage is becoming the law of the land, and now they're telling us we can't even say "Merry Christmas" anymore. Then, after all that you give us Rudy Giuliani (a pro-abortion social-liberal) and Mit Romney (a flip-flopper on abortion)!?! Well no more! We reject your candidates! Now you will follow our lead for a change!Thus emerges Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is a very unique candidate, unlike any we've seen in our lifetime, because the "Values Voters" summit has effectively charged him with the task of uniting America's diverse (and polarized) religious groups into an independent social-conservative coalition that no longer needs the traditional fiscal-conservative leadership. He's got to pull it off all by himself. A formidable task, especially with the hostilities that exist between various religious groups in the United States. Some Evangelicals are militantly anti-Catholic, while some Catholics are naturally distrusting of Evangelicals. Mormons tend to be alienated by both groups, and in turn, they have their own favorite candidate for the time being -- Mit Romney. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hostilities exist between various conservative religious groups based on their views of world events and how that should relate to foreign policy. Then there are the antiwar views of Catholics, verses many Evangelicals who largely supported the war in Iraq. Capital punishment is also a big issue. Though Evangelicals, Catholics and Mormons can all agree on the general pro-life premise that abortion is murder, both Evangelicals and Mormons tend to favor capital punishment, while Catholics generally do not. The list goes on and on.
One of the reasons why the social-conservatives haven't lead the Republican Party since the 1860s is because of their inability to get along and form a cohesive alliance that can sustain itself. So the last time social-conservatives ran the Republican Party, they united behind the abolition of slavery, giving black Americans full citizenship and representation in Congress. Once that agenda was accomplished, the social-conservative coalition fell apart, briefly resurfacing only to rally behind prohibition in the 1920s. Since that miserable failure, and colossal example of poor judgment, the social-conservative coalition gladly sat down quietly, to allow the fiscal-conservatives to drive the GOP train for the rest of the 20th century.
The problem with this is that as fiscal-conservatives ran the GOP, social-conservative issues took a back seat to economic issues, trade agreements and foreign policy. Republican candidates fell into the habit of giving lip-service to social-conservatives, but not fully carrying through on their promises. In effect, the issues most important to social-conservatives, became a political 'footballs' which GOP candidates gladly tossed as a means of getting votes, but had no intention of actually fixing the problems, because they didn't really want the issues to go away. They wanted to keep them around to use as political 'footballs' again in the next election cycle. This election marks the year the social-conservatives cried "NO MORE!" Whatever flaws Mike Huckabee once had, the social-conservatives were willing to overlook because of his strong and uncompromising pro-life and pro-family political record.
Mike Huckabee's surge is not just a reflection on his ability to communicate with the people on important issues like border security and tax reform, but it is also a sign of a power play going on in the Republican Party. The social-conservatives are attempting to unseat the fiscal-conservatives for leadership of the GOP. It's as if the social-conservatives are telling the fiscal-conservatives to "sit back and ride," while they drive the train for a while.
If the fiscal-conservatives think they can wrestle control of the GOP back easily, they are sorely mistaken. Prior to the "Values Voters" summit, there was serious talk among prominent Evangelical leaders of leaving the GOP and creating a third political party, or perhaps joining an existing one. The 'Values Voters" summit was in effect a last ditch effort to save the Republican Party from a mass exodus by replacing the assumed presidential nominee (Rudy Giuliani) with their own selection (Mike Huckabee). As it appears right now, it looks like it worked. The only thing that remains is to see how well it worked.
Fiscal-conservatives seem oblivious to how much trouble the Republican Party is really in. Social-conservatives make up about half of the Republican base. If they leave the GOP, the party is finished! The effects will reach far beyond the 2008 election. Not only will Hillary Clinton win the presidency, but with conservatism fractured between two parties, the Democrats will be able to easily win elections and control both the federal and state governments for more than a decade. For the sake of America, the GOP must be preserved, and the ONLY way to do that is to make sure social-conservatives have their way for a while.
As for Mike Huckabee, he finds himself in a very interesting position with the media, and part of it is unavoidable. As a former baptist minister, he becomes an automatic magnet to the religious issues in this country. Naturally, the mainstream media (not liking social-conservatives to begin with) will use the inherent polarization among religious groups as an opportunity to try to drive a wedge between them, thereby trying to break up the social-conservative coalition (Evangelicals, Mormons and Practicing Catholics), so as to help the Democratic opposition (Hillary Clinton) in the general election. What the mainstream media may (or may not) realize is that their actions might not only help the Democrats win in 2008, but they may also be instrumental in the demise of the Republican Party. This could happen if the wedge between social-conservative groups is driven deep enough to fracture the fragile coalition, thus allowing fiscal-conservatives to regain control of the primary election process. Should that happen, and a candidate like Rudy Giuliani get the Republican nomination, most social-conservatives will feel the party has left them behind. All it will take will be for one prominent Evangelical leader to announce his exodus from the GOP. Millions of Evangelicals will follow, and that will be the end of the Republican Party as we know it.
On that note, we now enter the 2008 primary season....