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 But, in the interim, he doubled the standard deduction and the child care credit, repealed capital gains taxes for home sales, lowered the capital gains rate, expanded the homestead exemption and set up tax-free savings accounts for medical care and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Most impressively, when he had to pass an income tax surcharge amid the drop in revenues after Sept. 11, 2001, he repealed it three years later when he didn’t need it any longer.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?

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

6 Comments

  1. OK Matt, so here’s the one argument against Huck that I can’t seem to get past and its really my last sticking point with Huck. The assaults on his fiscal conservative credentials I think are adequately refuted by you, Joe, et al. and anyone who endorses the fair tax is on the right side to me. BUT, I do think it is fair to say he seems to endorse a wider scope and role of government than most conservatives would like. For instance, he endorsed a nationwide smoking ban. That keeps coming up in the back of my head and I get Bush flashbacks – Bush was and is solid on social issues for the most part, but he certainly doesn’t see more government (specifically the federal government) as a negative (see No Child Left Behind). Whats your take on that?

    Reply

  2. Matthew Lee Anderson November 29, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Brant,

    I think the ‘smoking ban’ charge is overblown. He’s concerned about workplace smoking as a safety issue, not as a moral issue. He’s not in favor of banning smoking in restaurants or bars or other social places, as people can choose to go there or not. I’m not entirely sure I oppose that sort of ban–having lived in California (where it is banned in restaurants), and having moved to St. Louis (where it isn’t), I miss the ban! : )

    That said, I understand the concern. I certainly have a libertarian streak that gets worried when I think about Huckabee. But I’m also not necessarily opposed to compassionate conservatism–I’m still pretty undecided on the limits and scope of the government’s role in social issues, but even though I have a libertarian streak, I don’t want to blow up the government like it seems Paul wants to do.

    So, though I think NCLB was a disaster, and I’m not a huge fan of the fed. govt getting involved in education. But the infrastructure is now in place such that the fed IS involved, which means I think it’s the fed’s responsibility to do what it can to either reverse that process (slowly) and fix the system. NCLB was a failed attempt to do that, but I’m not sure that means the attempt shouldn’t be made.

    Compassionate conservatism strikes me as a pretty close approximation of neoconservatism, of which I’ve written about here: https://mereorthodoxy.com/?p=981.

    Reply

  3. Matthew Lee Anderson November 29, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Brant,

    One more (negative) point:

    Who else is going to beat Hillary? As we saw last night, Giuliani is a time bomb about to go off. Romney hasn’t pulled away yet, which should tip us off to his negatives (which have nothing to do, I keep saying, with his Mormonism).

    Reply

  4. To clarify Huckabee’s anti-smoking record, which Matthew misrepresents, but only by a little: Huckabee signed a bill that banned smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants. The only exemptions are for establishments with fewer than three employees, or those that allow only patrons over 21. Read about it here.

    That said, his primary motivation, as Matthew points out, is public safety. But his criterion isn’t whether “people can choose to go there or not.” Otherwise restaurants would be exempted, too.

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  5. Thanks for the reply Matt. I don’t have time to look this up right now, but here’s a few things off the top of my head – take them with a large grain of google-salt :)

    The dept. of education at the federal level was created in the Carter administration, so its not like its an irrevocable part of the Federal government. I believe that removing it from the Federal level entirely was one of the goals of the Contract with America. NCLB has, if anything, solidified the presence of education at a Federal level. That said, I have heard some stuff from Huck that suggests he would like to move more control to the state and local level and that is probably good enough for me (Personally, I’d like to see government get out of the business of indoctrinating, err, teaching our kids, but thats not a realistic goal near term). He also seems to strongly support homeschooling which I think is absolutely key.

    On the smoking ban – I guess I might have been (slightly) misled by what I read. The articles I had seen implied he supported a ban in all public places, not just workplaces. But I don’t know if there’s too big a distinction there – people do work at the beach and parks, so arguably those could disallow smoking as well. But his motivation being public safety, to me, in some ways makes it worse. I find the studies on second-hand smoking rather dubious. As Dennis Prager has said, only a culture so obsessed with the body at the expense of the soul could get so worked up into a religious fervor over something like second hand smoking.

    As you can see, I have a rather strong Libertarian streak in me. However I agree with you that the Ron Paul blow up the government tack is not going to be effective. There are also other things that I think Paul’s devotion to libertarian ideals blinds him to – such as his seeming assertion that the world would heal itself if we simply brought all troops home and isolated ourselves. I’d prefer a world in which that were true, but I don’t think its the world we have.

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  6. Matthew Lee Anderson December 2, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Brant,

    Jim is right about the scope of the bill. That’s my bad. I was misinformed about the scope of the restaurant exception.

    As for the ‘public safety’ motivation, it’s interesting, because even Colorado has instituted a smoking ban, and they are a fairly conservative state. Also, you have to remember, 25% of Arkansas was on Medicare during Huck’s tenure–he was paying out a ton in medical expenses, so I think he’s additionally motivated to find ways to ease the long-term burden on the state.

    Again, I share your libertarian streak. I’m not crazy about everything Huck thinks. However, as a single-issue voter (abortion), I don’t see anyone else who agrees with me on that issue who I think has a realistic shot at winning the White House.

    Reply

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