Mike Huckabee for Vice President?
As he comes closer to securing the Republican presidential nomination, Ron Paul’s delegate strategy notwithstanding, Mitt Romney is no doubt weighing the various names that could partner with him on the ticket. There are a few safe picks that would appease conservatives, but not many that would appeal to independent voters; at least not without a proper rollout and a lot of selling.
But yesterday at the National Review, Robert Costa floated our old friend, Tax Hike Mike Huckabee, someone that has been under radar when it comes to a possible vice presidential pick:
[A]ccording to several sources close to the Romney campaign, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the vice-presidential search, the 56-year-old Arkansan may be included in the veep mix.
To many Republicans, a ticket with a Mormon bishop and a Baptist preacher isn’t far-fetched. “In a way, it’s almost a dream ticket,” says Ed Rollins, the chairman of Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s substantive and knows domestic policy, and his personality wouldn’t overshadow Romney’s.”
For now, it isn’t clear whether Huckabee is going to be vetted, or that he’s anywhere near Romney’s short list. But he is, at the very least, being discussed. As one Romney ally puts it, tapping Huckabee would energize tea-party conservatives, evangelicals, and related voters who soured on Romney during the GOP primaries. He’s also not a sweat-inducing pick, since he was vetted by the Beltway press during his presidential run four years ago.
A second top Romney source is less enthusiastic about Huckabee’s conservative appeal but acknowledges that the former governor is probably on the “larger list of about 40 names” that’s being debated within Romney’s inner circle. “People have made that suggestion,” the source said, during conversations with Matt Rhoades, the campaign manager, and tight-lipped Romney confidants such as Scott Romney, the candidate’s older brother, and Ann, Romney’s wife.
The growing buzz about Huckabee within segments of Romney World delights social-conservative leaders and Huckabee allies, who have long hoped that Romney would reach out to the GOP’s evangelical voters with the veep selection. “If he’s not on the short list, somebody ought to put him there,” says Hogan Gidley, a former adviser to Huckabee. “He’d bring excitement to a ticket that’s lacking that, to some degree, right now. Beyond that, he’d bring a huge grassroots organization, and, to put it simply, the South.”
Veteran conservative activist Ralph Reed agrees. “Huckabee would be an outstanding and inspired choice,” he says. “He has tremendous support among evangelicals and conservatives, and he knows how to frame issues in a way that makes it clear he has core convictions and he does it in a winsome way.”
Huckabee is probably the closest that Romney could come to a hardcore social conservative that isn’t Rick Santorum. And while I’ll admit that Huckabee is generally viewed positively by general election voters (at least, from what I can remember), picking wouldn’t exactly be a positive for fiscal conservatives.
Costa says that he would have Tea Party appeal, but that’s if you’re watering them down as a broader part of the conservative movement — and given Tea Party support for Santorum this year, that may very well be the case.
During the 2008 campaign for the GOP nomination, Huckabee was constantly slammed by fiscally conservative and free market groups for what they viewed as his economic statism. Back in 2007, the Club for Growth published a lengthy white paper outlining the various tax hikes and expansions in government that Huckabee supported during his 10 years as Governor of Arkansas.
The idea that Huckabee is a small government conservative is nothing short of absurd. He has supported cap-and-trade, a federal smoking ban, tax hikes (more than Bill Clinton) and increasing spending on social programs.
Jonah Goldberg said it best about Huckabee:
When it comes to economic issues, [Mike Huckabee] is hard to distinguish from all sort of different brands of liberals. He is hostile to free trade. He is very friendly to raising taxes. He believes in regulation wherever necessary. He thinks abortion must remain a federal national issue, can’t send it back to the states. And that’s what I mean by “right-wing progressive.” He wants to use government towards conservative ends. He says it’s a biblical duty to fight global warming. The problem with someone like Huckabee is that he much like, in my mind, a liberal sees no dogmatic constitutional limits on the “do-goodery” of the federal government. Whatever he thinks is the right thing for the federal government to do, if he thinks there’s a good thing that can be done by the federal government, he wants the federal government to do it whether it’s constitutional or in accordance with principles of limited government. And maybe what he wants to isn’t what a cultural liberal would want to do but he still wants to use the government the same way. It’s big government conservatism. And that, I think, is the real threat these days to conservatism.
Goldberg would later note that, despite his foreign policy disagreements with Ron Paul, that Huckabee was a scarier candidate, one that “represents compassionate conservatism on steroids.” In other words, if you’re weren’t fond of the big government that George W. Bush brought, and ultimately paved the way for a Barack Obama, you’re not going to like Huckabee.
If Romney wants to make an appeal to fiscal conservatives or give them a nod, Huckabee would be among the worst picks, perhaps only Santorum would be more disasterous. And as independents learn more about Huckabee’s kookier views, such as once saying that AIDS patients should be isolated from the public and his anti-gay rhetoric, he’ll increasingly become a tough sell.