Vaguely Unappealing

All right, so apparently I’m just clueless when it comes to technology. Things seem to be working fine now. So, without further ado:

Reihan makes a number of good points here, and if I had taken the time to write a longer response to Brooks’ latest I would have had to acknowledge that there is certainly something to Brooks’ contention that Huckabee ought to be taken more seriously and should be seen as more of a first-tier candidate. What I wanted to say in my short post was simply that one of the key reasons that Brooks gives (Huckabee’s acceptability to “all factions”) is pretty questionable. Brooks says this as a way of distinguishing Huckabee from the leaders of the pack, but Huckabee has as many perceived flaws as, if not actually more such flaws than, some of the leaders.

That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t also got a number of electoral strengths (his mild Main Street populism, his foreign policy mix of national interest and talk of honour, his Giuliani-esque embrace of border security while being pretty liberal on immigration policy itself). Then again, some of these strengths can be liabilities in a Republican primary contest and some undermine him with other voters. His corporation-bashing is good, populist fun, but it hardly helps his already anemic fundraising, and his sympathy for American workers seems to be entirely out of whack with his broader immigration position and his advocacy for a consumption tax. He talks a good game on a number of things at the moment, but perusing his record gives the groups I mentioned a very different view of the man.

As I’m sure Reihan knows, the Club for Growth really dislikes Huckabee’s record on taxes. This would be where Reihan says that this is actually a mark in Huckabee’s favour, because people backed by the Club for Growth have pretty bad electability. Nonetheless, in the primaries the Club has disproportionately great influence and their “pro-growth” views carry weight with many activists. Huckabee has also received a “D” grade on economic policy from Cato for his tenure as governor. Again, Reihan could ask, “How many divisions does the Cato Institute have?” The number would not be large. But the reasons why Huckabee might very well be a successful general election candidate are the reasons why he will have trouble gaining traction in the early primaries. Does he undo some of this damage with his support for the Fair Tax? Perhaps, but the charge of opportunism hurts as much as “vagueness” and “flexibility” help. The same goes for his discovery of border security. On the war, his position is not a liability with most core GOP voters, but it seems to me that antiwar conservatives have to have been put off by his commitment to remain in Iraq in the name of “honour.”

Update: Ross has more.

Incidentally, aside from his having an agreeable personality and executive experience, what substantially distinguishes Huckabee’s social conservatism plus populist streak from a similar Gary Bauer-type candidacy? What policies does Huckabee advocate that should make him more appealing than a Bauer?

Cross-posted at Eunomia