Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Huckabee Rising on Debate Day

The Huckabee breakout.

Rasmussen Reports has
Huckabee taking the lead in Iowa -- devastating news for Mitt Romney. Rasmussen also shows Huckabee coming on strong in third nationally among Republicans. The GOP-leaning Insider Advantage poll in Florida has Huckabee surging into second place behind Rudy. Fred Thompson is collapsing in the Sunshine State -- as he is in many places (except South Carolina -- see below). Stephen Bainbridge is convinced that he's toast, though, like me he notes the irony that Thompson, ironically, is the candidate putting forward the most comprehensive policy statements. Too much, too late?

Romney might take real heart that a Clemson University poll has Rudy
dropping like a rock in South Carolina. It will be interesting to see if Romney's recent comments on whether he would appoint a Muslim to serve in his Cabinet becomes a topic on tonight's CNN/You Tube debate.

However, given Huckabee's surge, the spotlight is likely to be on him tonight. Already, the economic conservatives
have the knives out for the other "Boy From Hope." (Your not-so-humble host noticed this phenomenon beginning last month.) Jonah Goldberg recently called him an example of "compassionate conservatism on steroids." But after waiting all these months, if social conservatives have decided that Huckabee is "the one", will they tolerate a gang-bang on their golden boy? If he is seen as being "taken out" by the Mormon governor and the liberal New York mayor, will the social cons keep their allegiance to the GOP.

In any event, these latest developments force all the leaders to reassess their strategies.

Romney has to take Huckabee seriously, because a defeat in Iowa could be fatal for the former Massachusetts governor. But things have changed for the former New York governor as well. Previously, it was in Giuliani's best interest to ignore Huckabee and allow him to take the wind out of Romney's sails in Iowa (which Rudy wasn't seriously contesting anyway). That strategy was good if Huckabee was only doing well in Iowa.

If, as it appears, he has become the social conservative's breakout candidate -- and a charismatic Southerner to boot -- Huckabee suddenly becomes a major threat to Rudy's "Florida Firewall." Giuliani's plan all along was to ignore Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and then pick up the big states on February 5th and beyond. That might still work for California, New York and other Northeast states, but if Huckabee (conceptually) upsets Romney in Iowa, either wins or comes in second in South Carolina, he may have the momentum to upset Rudy in Florida.

At that point, everything is up for grabs. The question may end up being will the likely GOP ticket be Giuliani-Huckabee -- or Huckabee-Giuliani.

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