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The Second Half Comeback: Huckabee's Momentum (Update)

November 28th, 2007 | 3 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Clearly, if this election were a football game, Huckabee's surge would be the equivalent of a second-half comeback. He has all the momentum on his side, and he is making huge strides in overcoming his opponents.

The main question, of course, is whether he can keep the momentum long enough to propel him to victory, and whether he can effectively counter the inevitable counters by his opponents.

For those who haven't followed it all recently, let's recap what Huck has done this week:

Rasmussen, the leading pollster, now has Huckabee leading in Iowa. That, combined with Romney's purported miscue (even if it's overblown, like I think it is, it's bad press) makes for a very good weak alone.

But the question all along has been whether Huckabee would be able to translate that win into victories in other states. There are good signs on this front as well: Huckabee has picked up a key endorsement in Florida, where he has improved to second place.

Dick Morris made the "fiscal conservative" case for him on a major political website. I don't know how worthwhile it is given the source--Morris was, after all, an adviser to Bill--but the facts are pretty impressive:

A recent column by Bob Novak excoriated Huckabee for a "47 percent increase in state tax burden." But during Huckabee's years in office, total state tax burden -- all 50 states combined -- rose by twice as much: 98 percent, increasing from $743 billion in 1993 to $1.47 trillion in 2005.

In Arkansas, the income tax when he took office was 1 percent for the poorest taxpayers and 7 percent for the richest, exactly where it stood when he left the statehouse 11 years later. But, in the interim, he doubled the standard deduction and the child care credit, repealed capital gains taxes for home sales, lowered the capital gains rate, expanded the homestead exemption and set up tax-free savings accounts for medical care and college tuition.

Most impressively, when he had to pass an income tax surcharge amid the drop in revenues after Sept. 11, 2001, he repealed it three years later when he didn't need it any longer.

He raised the sales tax one cent in 11 years and did that only after the courts ordered him to do so. (He also got voter approval for a one-eighth-of-one-cent hike for parks and recreation.)

Huckabee has taken some hits, however, particularly for this ad in which he identifies himself as a "Christian leader." I'm not a fan of the ad, mostly because I think it's politically inexpedient for him with respect to the general election.

But the overall trend is strong, and it shows no sign of slowing. Every moment is crucial for Mike Huckabee, but tonight's debate is particularly pivotal--a strong showing here, especially on economic issues and foreign policy issues, and Huckabee could solidify his position as the top social conservative in the race.

And who would have expected that sentence to be written six months ago?

Update:  How could I forget the endorsement by Jerry Falwell, Jr. and the announcement of his "Faith and Values Coalition," which has a number of Christian celebrities listed?

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.