Rich Lowry of National Review, who’s not a big fan of Mike Huckabee, did an interesting brief meditation today on the larger meaning of the Arkansan’s recent rise to relevance in the Republican presidential contest:
Remember how evangelicals had “matured”? Remember how the war on terror had replaced social issues? It shouldn’t be hard, since all those things were being said a couple of weeks ago (heck, still being said maybe even a few days ago). Part of what seems to be going on with the Huckabee surge is evangelicals sticking their thumbs in the eyes of the chattering class—we’re still here, we still matter, and we still care about our signature issues. Remember the lack of excitement in the Republican race, especially among dispirited social conservatives? Well, now there is some excitement, and it isn’t over free market economics or the war on terror, but a candidate who doesn’t speak compellingly about either of those things but instead about social issues. As a friend I was talking to a little earlier points out, the most important moment of the campaign so far came when a social conservative excited a social conservative audience—Huckabee with his “I come from you” speech at the “values summit.” This friend argues that the Huck surge makes it harder, not easier, for Rudy to win the nomination. Now that many evangelicals have a horse in this race, it would be very hard to tell them that not only will their guy not get the nomination, but they’ll have to settle for a pro-choicer. I don’t know about that, but Huck has certainly trashed about nine months-worth of conventional wisdom on the changing nature of social conservative voters.
This is probably a useful reminder of the source of Huckabee’s core vote for those progressives who view him as some sort of economic populist. In Iowa, at least, and probably nationally, Mike Huckabee’s “surge” is primarily a product of his success in remobilizing–and de-marginalizing–the Christian Right.