Against Huckabee for Veep

Following on Noah, I still think Pawlenty or Giuliani (ego notwithstanding) or perhaps Mark Sanford would be a better choice, particularly since Huckabee has become a highly polarizing figure, deservedly or not. More (much more) below.

I see Noah’s point about Huckabee, but I think Huckabee’s moment may have passed. He failed to seize it because, as Matt Yglesias and others have reminded us, he didn’t have the deep bench he needed to offer a real alternative to the increasingly impoverished politics of the three-legged stool. As some activists who’ve hitched their wagons to Huckabee have already suggested, Huckabee, only five years older than Obama, would benefit from an Edwards-style spell in the wilderness, during which he could build a policy profile. But of course Bobby Jindal will be waiting in the wings. If “Jindalmania” sweeps the nation at some point, I will do the equivalent of a touchdown dance for, like, three months, after which I will die of exhaustion.

Noah’s analysis is most convincing when he argues that white working class and lower-middle-class voters will be the key constituency.

Downscale values voters could plausibly stay home in 2008 if they don’t think they have a nominee who they have reason to support. Particularly if Hillary Clinton is not the nominee, it will be hard to bring them to the polls with a purely negative message. Huckabee, for a while there, really spoke to these voters – and may still; we’ll see soon enough.

A fortiori, it seems that downscale Republicans are actually less hostile to the Clintons than the median Republican, particularly women who fall in the crucial pro-government conservative camp.

Yet Huckabee is the former governor of a border state that Republicans would hopefully have locked down, particularly with a candidate like McCain at the top of the ticket. I’d submit that Tim Pawlenty would be superior. Pawlenty has a broadly similar appeal, thanks to his modest background and his occasional (opportunistic, poll-tested, shrewd, and mostly unthreatening) departures from three-legged orthodoxy. Better still, he hasn’t become a lightning rod for the economic right and, of course, he is the reasonably popular governor of a state in the Upper Midwest. It also helps that he is a longtime McCain loyalist.

Of course, there are those who say that traditional geographical ticket balancing is dead. Maybe they’re right.

I still think that Giuliani would be an attractive vice presidential choice per Richelieu, but I’ll throw out another attractive possibility: McCain and Mark Sanford, a hero to the fiscal and social right who endorsed McCain in 2000 and complements McCain’s image as a budget hawk and reformer.

Of course, Sanford brings nothing to the table when it comes to region. If the Republicans lose South Carolina, the party is in dire shape. But Sanford could certainly energize the Republican base and he’s proved a competent, energetic executive. Interestingly, he’s also loved by a certain kind of libertarian, who puts budget-cutting and school choice first.

That said, it’s not obvious to me that Sanford helps in Ohio, whereas Huckabee or Pawlenty or Giuliani might.

As for Obama-Webb, I think Noah’s analysis is very astute, particularly when it comes to Webb’s real limitations. This would be an “atmospheric” pick, a populist who fits uneasily on the right or left and who in many respects represents the angrier future of US politics. Mark Warner would be a safer and less interesting choice. I just hope Obama makes it to that stage, as I fear his chances are slipping away.