Despite a very strong debate performance, Mike Huckabee faces several significant challenges that he will have to overcome in the next ten weeks. I’ve been overwhelmingly positive about Huckabee, and right now, I don’t see much reason to stop being so. But for those just getting to know the guy, here are some of the downsides.1) Sadly, Huckabee is a big-government proponent, which isn’t going to play well at all with the fiscal conservatives. In addition to Erick’s article, consider Rob Port’s case against Huckabee (Ht: Instapundit). I don’t know that I agree that conservatism and federalism are the same, but I am concerned that Huckabee wants to build a nanny-state. He is in a bind, too, since he clearly can’t afford to change his mind on this issue (nor would he, I imagine, just to win the nomination). But it may not be all that bad–his answers tonight on health care and social security were both sufficiently personal to appease me.
2) Taxes. Club for Growth called him a “mixed bag” on tax and economic issues. That is, however, better than the doomsday language I’ve heard some fiscal conservatives use. Also, one person told me that Arkansas has actually prospered during Huckabee’s tenure as governor.
3) Too religious? It will be interesting to see him navigate the relationship between faith and politics, as the more he comes under scrutiny, the more he’s going to get questioned about it. See, for instance, tonight. He wasn’t great on it, but he was good enough.
4) The money. This is a big deal. Jill Stanek has a good summary of the pertinent issues and the problem for Huckabee. In some ways, this is the most frustrating aspect of this issue with Huckabee’s campaign. Brownback dropped out because he couldn’t raise support, but he couldn’t raise support because a lot of evangelical leaders said that he wasn’t “electable.” It became a self-fulfilling prophecy in his case, and it threatens to stop Huckabee’s campaign too. Will it? If Huckabee doesn’t report serious gains in the next quarter, then he’s done. If Huckabee’s supporters want him to win it, they need to donate cash, and do it now.
On the plus side, there was a little reported endorsement that may help Huckabee and be of interest to evangelicals thinking about supporting him. Stephen Strang, the owner of New Man magazine, which is a pentecostal magazine with a rather large readership, challenged readers to support Huckabee:
Huckabee is a good man. He just needs other good men (and women) to get behind him at this critical stage.
Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Let’s do what we can to change the moral direction of our country. Is it possible our joint efforts will lead to a “tipping point” in this campaign that will send a faithful Christian to the White House who can inspire the nation to return to our Judeo-Christian roots?
Huckabee’s hurdles probably aren’t insurmountable, but they are significant. But if he pulls it off, it will be one of the best stories in recent political memory. “The unknown from Arkansas without any money rises up to defeat his richer and more famous opponents”–that’s the sort of story that I wouldn’t mind watching.