Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee may be winning the media’s attention on the campaign trail, but he has struggled to get a real hearing from many activists and leaders in the Republican base. It’s an odd situation: In a GOP field marred by multiple divorces and social-issue flip flopping, Huckabee stands out as a former Southern Baptist minister with solid social-conservative bona fides.
Much of the mainstream media coverage of Huckabee’s chilly reception among national leaders has focused on their anxieties about his electability—his shallow campaign war chest, his limited crossover appeal in a general election. Writing for the American Prospect online, Sarah Posner gets the story right: Huckabee’s biggest hurdle with movement conservatives is the fact that he combines his social conservatism with far more liberal views on economic issues, and he’s not afraid to say so. He’s the compassionate conservative that George W. Bush promised to be.
This may play well in Iowa, where Huckabee recently surged ahead in the polls. But the world in which national-level conservative power brokers live doesn’t look that much like Cedar Rapids. The Club for Growth is outwardly hostile toward him, and even the religious right heavyweights—many of whom have long been in bed with economic conservatives—haven’t coalesced behind him.
It remains to be seen just how much influence these leaders have over voters, many of whom may be attracted to Huckabee precisely because of his category-busting brand of conservatism.