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Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
According to the conventional wisdom, the Iowa straw poll tomorrow for "Republicans only" is set to launch former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, into a higher echelon of the American consciousness.

I have no quibble with that analysis. In addition to his superior Iowa organization, Romney is the only top-tier candidate contesting the vote tomorrow. He will undoubtedly win the canvass handily. Afterwards, for a fleeting moment, all eyes will be trained on Romney. It is up to the candidate to make the most of that opportunity.

However, tomorrow is also an important day for virtually unknown Republican candidate Mike Huckabee.

If Bill Richardson is the best candidate for the Democratic nomination that you've never heard of, Mike Huckabee is his opposite number.

Kris Kristoferson once said of Billy Joe Shaver (before the Texas songwriter became quasi-famous), "if he were a TV show, he would come on at 4:OO AM." Mike Huckabee has taken over the time slot.

The former governor of Arkansas is funny, true-blue conservative, and engaging, but he is currently in the tall weeds of the GOP primary race.

Will Iowa be the place where Mike Huckabee emerges?

Crazier things have happened.

Why might Iowa be kind to the former governor?

Mike Huckabee, an Baptist minister turned politician, ought to play well in Peoria. He is an authentic son of the heartland and a candidate that genuinely embodies the values of evangelical America. Remember Iowa is the place that briefly created an air of viability for Pat Robertson in 1988.

If Huckabee cannot gain traction tomorrow in Ames, he most likely becomes merely an obscure footnote in American presidential election history. However, I would not be shocked if Mike Huckabee did well enough on Saturday to make him worth talking about on Sunday. A GOP electorate in search of an appealing conservative could do worse.

UPDATE: Sorry I missed this excellent profile of Huckabee from Roger Simon of the Politico (worth reading: here).

09/08: Fred Who?

Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The zeitgeist this week seems to be that Fred Thompson has tarried too long and perhaps missed his window of opportunity, while Mitt Romney is finally catching fire and coming into his own as a candidate.

Frankly, I have the same feeling.

In truth: We are just not going to understand the impact of Fred Thompson's entry into this race until he enters the race (assuming that he, indeed, will throw his hat into the ring, to which I am starting to have my doubts).

More significantly, the malaise hanging over the GOP race is a sense of impending doom in November 2008. This dread is not so much a result of inferior candidates; rather, it is the certainty that our electoral chances are inextricably linked to our success in Iraq. However, the glimmer of hope breaking across the Republican horizon in re Iraq may shine a more attractive light on our current crop of contenders.

A more successful Iraq would bode well for John McCain, if he weren't hopelessly damaged beyond all redemption with GOP primary voters--but McCain seems truly beyond resuscitation.

That leaves Rudy, who remains atop the national surveys among Republicans and continues to run strong in national polls among all voters.

Undoubtedly, Mitt Romney is finding his voice. His success in the upcoming Iowa straw poll will offer him his moment of maximum exposure. From what I can see--he is ready. It is conceivable that Romney might take this moment to emerge as the frontrunner and never look back. I must admit that I am increasingly sympathetic to him.

However, I continue to have serious doubts. Romney is running as an "outsider." I remain skeptical that the Republicans can win a national election as the party of new ideas. Will anyone buy that at this point?

For a lot of reasons, the Republicans remain in a fix.
A few days ago Tocqueville pointed me toward this story in which, according to the headline, John "McCain change[d] course on immigration."

From the AP story:

"WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful John McCain on Thursday backed a scaled-down proposal that imposes strict rules to end illegal immigration but doesn't include a path to citizenship.

"The move away from a comprehensive measure is an about-face for the Arizona senator, who had been a leading GOP champion of a bill that included a guest worker program and would have legalized many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. It failed earlier this year.

'"We can still show the American people that we are serious about securing our nation's border," McCain said in a statement, adding that the new bill would "provide an essential step toward achieving comprehensive reform in the future."'

Alluding to previous conversations on this blog, Tocqueville submitted this development as further evidence that McCain is "a complete and shameless opportunist."

Call me stubborn--but I would say that this alteration indicates McCain's pragmatism much more than it proves his opportunism.

There is no doubt that his position on immigration did enormous damage to him politically, completely killing his already slim chances of winning the GOP nomination (although the Senator, evidently, disagrees). Inarguably, this reformulation is the only option for candidate McCain.

An aside: My opinion, nevertheless, is that it really does not matter at this point, rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic and all that (but, again, the Senator seems to disagree).

Regardless, McCain is merely taking a very practical position. He still wants comprehensive immigration reform--but he is admitting the obvious: cultural conservatives must be placated before any larger reform is possible.

One can argue that McCain continues to advocate the same policy--but he has shown flexibility in his approach to accomplishing his long-term goal.

Of course, the practical question becomes: will anyone who counts for anything buy into that reading of the situation? Not likely.