August 24, 2007
Trends may favor the Arkansas governor.
In an opinion piece this week in National Review Online, S.T. Karnick suggests that two trends may help long-shot Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee actually win the presidency. Huckabee placed second in the recent Iowa straw poll despite barely registering a national blip in the race against better-known and better-financed candidates such as Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
The first trend, Karnick states, is that governors usually win the presidency, while senators (most of the other candidates) usually do not:
The reasons governors beat national politicians are probably fairly simple. They have accomplishments they can cite, have served as CEO of a large government organization (as the U.S. presidency is), and, most importantly, they don’t have a voting record on important and controversial national issues.
Senators, by contrast, don’t have the individual political-administrative accomplishments to which to point, have records dotted with controversial and polarizing votes, and typically have made a lot of enemies on the national level.
This does not bode well for the Democratic triumvirate, each of whom serve or served in the Senate. But of course several of Huckabee's Republican opponents have executive experience. Romney ran Massachusetts as governor, Giuliani ran Gotham as mayor. But Karnick says the hugely important evangelical vote is unlikely to coalesce around either of these two. Giuliani has character problems, while many Bible-believing Christians distrust Romney's Mormon faith (and perhaps his recent reversal on abortion?).
That's where Karnick's second reason comes in. Huckabee is a former Baptist minister, able to connect with evangelicals in a way the other candidates cannot:
A former Baptist minister who served two terms as governor of Arkansas, a state long controlled by Democrats, where he nonetheless enjoyed high approval ratings, Huckabee is hardly more obscure than Bill Clinton was in 1991 (unless you think Clinton’s tenure as leader of the National Governor’s Association made him world-famous). His appeal to evangelicals is a given.
So can Mike Huchabee become a viable presidential candidate and perhaps even steal the Republican nomination? It's an interesting argument. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. No one gave Clinton any hope against Bush I, after all.