Mike Huckabee has shared some thoughts on his campaign with the Washington Times. As a source of points for discussion the article is very . . . rich.
First, Huck clearly thinks he was done in by evangelical leaders who did not support him because they are jealous for their influence:
“Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not,” the former Arkansas governor says. “Let’s face it, if you’re not going to be king, the next best thing is to be the kingmaker. And if the person gets there without you, you become less relevant.”
I think he’s wrong about his Evangelical support. If memory serves me, in most, if not all, primary states Huckabee got a large chunk of the Evangelical vote, but I am not sure he ever got a majority of it, at least when Romney was still in the race. [Note: See the comment to this post by Texan, who has a breakdown of the Evangelical vote.]
But beyond that, I simply adore Huck’s narcissicm: He thinks the real reason “the leadership” did not support him was their own personal selfish motives. Golly, Mike, could it be that they simply did not think you were the best candidate? Gary Bauer, who has always backed McCain, said it best:
Mr. Huckabee “ran an honorable campaign, but in spite of his successes I saw no evidence that he could bring together the three main parts of the Reagan electoral constituency — defense, economic and social conservatives.
“If he asked my advice, it would be to try to do that in the months and years ahead,” he said.
In other words, get to the right place on the issues! What a concept that must be for Huck, who clearly thought Evangelicals should support him just because he is . . . an Evangelical. Can you say, “identity politics?”
As for the idea that those nasty, self-absorbed Evangelical leaders withheld support from Huck in order to preserve their own influence and “king-maker” status . . . I am going to let John weigh in on that. We have said here that what Huck himself really wants is to be a king-maker. The psychological concept of “projection” comes to mind.
The article offers an interesting breakdown of where the Evangelical support went:
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson backed Rudolph W. Giuliani; American Value President and former presidential hopeful Gary Bauer endorsed Sen. John McCain; and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins remained neutral, even as Mr. Huckabee was wowing their supporters and winning the values voter straw polls they organized.
No mention of Jay Sekulow, Mark DeMoss, and Bob Jones III, all of whom supported Romney.
But forget all that. This may be my favorite ‘graph in the article:
Mr. Huckabee says . . . the press undermined his prospects by too often mentioning he was a Baptist minister before he was an elected official.
“The qualification for me being president is not that I was a pastor 20 years ago [but] that I effectively governed a state, running a microcosm of the federal government,” Mr. Huckabee said in an interview with The Washington Times. [Emphasis added.]
Oh, where to begin? Where to begin?
Did Huck not run ads touting himself as a “Christian leader” in Iowa, or is my memory playing tricks on me? No, I think he really did that.
Did he not use religious imagery in his speeches repeatedly? Ad nauseum? Yes, I think he did that.
And wasn’t there another candidate in the race, Mitt Romney, also a former governor, whose religion was mentioned in almost every news article about him — even though Romney never brought it up himself? Yes, I think there was.
Most people who are paying attention noticed these things. But when your name is Mike Huckabee and you have a “poor me” whiner complex, I guess that’s how you see the world.
John Chimes In: I am under the weather, so this will be brief. I will address only that that Lowell has asked me to, though this piece is indeed a “target rich environment.” Most evangelical leaders are pretty smart cookies politically. What they want is to be effective. That means they back the best candidate, not the one most like them. In our opinion, and the opinion of many of them that I have heard from privately, that best candidate was Mitt Romney. But, those same leaders did not go for Mitt either, largely – there are the exceptions Lowell notes, but largely, evangelical leadership was on the sidelines in this one. The key question is why.
There was with Romney an unease based on faith. Most leaders I know knew of that unease, but also knew he was the best candidate and that unease could be overcome. But then enter Mike Huckabee and his faith appeals. And even though his ads, what few there were, got more secular outside Iowa, his network was almost purely church-based — everywhere. That gave that unease a place to land. So rather than have to work to overcome it, people experiencing that unease simply went Huck’s way. Some would have gone to Romney, and many I suspect would have simply sat this one out.
What this did was put Evangelical leadership between a rock and a hard place. Their constituents largely had focused on Huckabee and their unease with Romney’s faith was growing into opposition given that Huck was providing them cover. This left the leadership with a choice: Risk crossing their constituencies and losing their leadership capabilities; go for a candidate they could not back on the issues, as the article cites – and who they thought was a loser; or sit on the sidelines. Of course, they chose the latter. The net effect, however, is that Evangelicals have no voice in this election. At least they kept their power bases intact to fight another day.
One final quick comment: Huck is attempting here to shape history contrary to reality. His denial of the very issues he shaped his campaign with, in order to make that campaign look more acceptable, is deplorable. It begins to call into serious question not just his politics, but his character — and I really hate to say that about a fellow Evangelical.