Well, the Florida Primary has passed, and our new front runner is – John McCain. Once considered DOA, due to his high negatives with Republican Conservatives, McCain, always the media darling, proves himself to be the Republican “come-back kid”, defeating Mitt Romney by nearly 100,000 votes in what was billed to be a neck and neck contest, but which turned out to be not nearly such a nail-biter as the media played it up to be.
Once again, it seems the polling data was off.
Having won South Carolina and Florida, States that historically have fallen to the eventual Primary winner and now leading in the delegate count, there can be no doubt that McCain is the GOP front-runner. And if there were any lingering doubt, the talking heads on the news networks would be quick to assure you that the debate is over.
To be sure, they still point to Super Tuesday, and the possibility that Romney may still pose a challenge in some states. But that is just to keep up the façade that there is still a race in progress, so that ratings do not suffer. As far as most are concerned, McCain has been handed the robe and scepter; all that remains is the formality of the actual coronation at the National Convention. Here are the current delegate counts as they stand after Florida.
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It is interesting to note that Giuliani, whose strategy of only competing in Florida obviously failed, has dropped out of the race after his distant third place finish, while Huckabee, who finished fourth behind Giuliani, still remains determined to stick it out to the finish. Huckabee says he considers his close finish relative to Giuliani a victory, as Giuliani spent megabucks in Florida, and he, Huckabee, spent next to nothing. By his reckoning, this makes him a contender, despite coming up empty in the delegate count.
By the same reasoning, I guess, Ron Paul should be the real front-runner, as, by voting, he “won” all the debates. It also appears that he may have won in Louisiana, at least initially. Haven’t heard much about Louisiana, have you? That’s because Louisiana, like Wyoming, is a contest that really never happened.
So Giuliani, the early media darling, drops out after a disappointing finish in Florida, and endorses John McCain. So far, everyone who has dropped has endorsed McCain, with the exception of Tom Tancredo, who endorsed Mitt Romney. Does anyone doubt that McCain, as unlikely as it may seem, is now the Republican Party anointed one?
And why is Huckabee still in the race, exactly? I understand why Ron Paul is still there. He has monetary support from his base (much more than Huckabee has), and he has a message that he and his supporters want aired. As long as the people putting on the debates are willing to let him participate, he will be there. Once he stops getting invited to the debates, he will drop out. His message is radically different from the rest of the Republican candidates. Huckabee’s? Not so much.
Huckabee really has no such purpose, and he patently isn’t going to dethrone McCain, yet he keeps gamely soldiering on. Is there any doubt who he would endorse were he to quit? Can anyone seriously see him supporting Mitt Romney?
If there is one thing that both McCain and Huckabee have in common it is a serious dislike for Mitt Romney. The media claims it is because Mitt ran “attack” ads against them both. From what I have been able to gather from the ads I have seen, they specifically target the candidate’s record, in the Senate and as Governor of Arkansas respectively. Since when is a candidate’s record off limits for discussion during a political campaign? None of the ads were personal attacks against the candidates themselves.
And while each might complain that the ads “mischaracterized” their actual record or position, well, what would one expect them to say? And since when is that something new in a political campaign? Go back and look at the primary campaign between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Talk about “attack” ads! Have you ever wondered where the term “Voodoo Economics”, attached to what Republicans now consider one of their primary themes, cutting taxes to stimulate the economy, came from? It was coined by none other than George H.W. Bush during the primaries. And yet, when the dust settled and Reagan won, who did he select as his running mate? George H.W. Bush. Can you imagine McCain or Huckabee selecting Romney as such?
So why is Huck so willing to shoulder the burden in what is obviously, to most observers, a losing cause. My theory is that he is doing it to siphon votes away from Mitt Romney, and ensure that John McCain gets the nomination. He may be doing this based on simple dislike for Romney (like Ross Perot’s run to derail George H. W. Bush in 1992), or perhaps he is angling for a place on the McCain ticket, despite claims to the contrary.
It may be that a deal has already been struck. This is politics, after all. And even though the talking heads aren’t talking about it quite yet, a McCain Huckabee ticket might help secure the evangelical wing of the Party where McCain has less influence.
There might be other reasons for Mike Huckabee’s dislike of Mitt Romney, and why he might stick around to try and help ensure victory for John McCain. McCain, if not a friend, is at least the lesser of two evils in one regard. McCain is not a Mormon.
Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this issue, being a Mormon myself. In truth, my support for Romney was not immediate, and has never been based on his religion. Early on, I might have supported Huckabee, his views on abortion and family issues are not dissimilar from my own, socially conservative views, had not investigation into his record in Arkansas made that doubtful.
In addition to being a social conservative, I am a fiscal conservative as well.
The candidate closest to my political viewpoints was Duncan Hunter; but he never caught on in the polls. I have had my doubts about Romney. Like many conservatives, I wasn’t quite sure how a bona fide conservative could come out of a state like Massachusetts. My thoughts were that I was more likely to get someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, than Ronald Reagan. Although to be fair, Reagan himself originally came from California.
And, like many, Romney seemed plastic to me. Like he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t.
The icing on the cake, with regard to my disdain for Mike Huckabee, and the basis for my suspicion that his possible reasons for opposing Mitt Romney might be something other than simple political stance or “attack ads”, was his actions during run-up to the Iowa caucuses.
In a state with a large proportion of politically active Republican evangelicals, where Mitt had enjoyed a large lead, in waltzes Mike Huckabee, running ads proclaiming himself as the “Christian” candidate. Then, in an interview for a cover piece in the New York Times Magazine, when asked if he considers Mormonism a cult or a religion, first claims “I really don’t know much about it.”, and then asks, as a seemingly innocent aside, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”
In addition to being the Governor of Arkansas, and candidate for the Presidency on the Republican ticket, Mike Huckabee is also a Southern Baptist minister. In fact, it has been reported multiple times that he has preached sermons in Baptist churches while on the campaign trail, including in Iowa. Now I don’t have a problem with his preaching; that’s what ministers do, after all. I do have a problem with the statements he made to the NYT however because first, as a Southern Baptist minister, I find it extremely hard to believe that he knows nothing about the Mormon faith, and second, because that seemingly “innocent” question he threw out concerning Jesus and the devil are standard fare when it comes to claims by, among others, Southern Baptists, that the Mormon Church is a cult.
In other words, he was being disingenuous and deliberately playing the religion card while allowing himself plausible deniability to claim that he was not. He later apologized for the remark, but the damage was already done.
But why should Huckabee know anything about the Mormon church you may ask. Mormons make up around two percent of the population. Many people don’t know anything about Mormons, nor do they much care to. Why should Mike Huckabee be any different?
Were he Episcopalian, like the majority of our past presidents, I would agree. Likewise if he were Presbyterian, or Unitarian, or Lutheran, or agnostic, atheist, or Jewish, I would agree as well. But he is a Southern Baptist, and a minister to boot. It simply isn’t possible that he knows nothing about the LDS church, nor is it likely that he harbors no bias against it.
It may not be widely known to the public at large, but there is a lot of history between the Southern Baptists and the LDS Church. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has spent quite a bit of effort teaching its members about the “dangers of Mormonism” since it discovered, during the early 1980s, that 40% of the 217,000 converts to the LDS faith in 1980 came from Baptist backgrounds. This, coupled with the fact that the Mormon Church was rapidly becoming the fastest growing religion in the world, led to their “developing programs, training pastors, hosting Mormonism-awareness conferences, and publishing articles to help spread the message to Southern Baptists that Mormonism was a dangerous cult religion they had to avoid.” 
Unless you were living in a cave in Utah, it was impossible to be a Mormon and not be aware of this, particularly if you were living out in what Utah Mormons call “the mission field”. (Basically anywhere but Utah, and parts of Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona.) Were you Southern Baptist, you would pretty much have to be a non-practicing member to be unaware as well. This effort culminated (but did not go away), in 1998, when the SBC held it’s annual convention in Salt Lake City. One might wonder why an anti-Mormon group would hold it’s convention in the heart of “enemy territory”.
As part of the convention, three thousand Southern Baptist volunteers borrowed a chapter from the LDS missionary’s playbook and went door to door seeking to bring the blessings of Christ to those benighted souls trapped in the grip of Mormonism (who were pretty certain they had already secured such blessings). They achieved some measure of success; a bit over 1000 conversions were recorded, albeit later acknowledged by SBC officials that most came from non-Mormons.
During the run-up to this event, the SBC devoted significant resources to producing specifically anti-Mormon media, vs more general missionary fare; a video “The Mormon Puzzle”, and a book, “Mormonism Unmasked”, which, according to its cover, was intended to “lift the veil from one of the greatest deceptions in the history of religion.”
While most evangelicals would disagree with Mormonism on a theological basis, many who have taken an honest look at Mitt Romney have come to realize that while they probably wouldn’t be comfortable attending church with him, when it comes to important moral and family issues, they share like viewpoints; more so than others of the candidates vying for the nomination. And while they probably wouldn’t hire him as pastor, for a purely secular post, such as President of the United States, these issues rank higher in importance than does his religious doctrine.
On the other hand, there are those who see the election of a Mormon to the highest office in the land as somehow validating Mormonism as a mainstream Christian faith, though how election to a secular office validates a religious belief is beyond me. There is concern that if this were to occur, it might serve to increase curiosity about a church which many Americans currently know nothing. It might in fact, make it look inviting, potentially increasing the effectiveness of LDS missionary efforts. This of course, is to be avoided at all costs.
It is my suspicion that Mike Huckabee, Southern Baptist minister, falls into the latter category. At the very least, his attempt to portray himself ignorant of the LDS church falls flat on its face, since he was one of the ministers who preached at that SBC conference in Salt Lake City in 1998. At the very least it was an attempt to play on religious bigotry, reminding his “flock” that he is the true “Christian” here, and Romney is not.
The media keeps characterizing this as being now a two man race. But really, it isn’t. Every vote Huckabee gets comes at the expense of John McCain or Mitt Romney; and judging from polling data in Florida, his presence is hurting Romney more than McCain. The longer Huckagee hangs around, the better for McCain and the worse for Romney.
Huck says he’s in it for the long haul. I think he’s in it until Romney quits. Once that happens, I bet Huck heads for the hills…
…and waits for his phone to ring with McCain on the other end.