Thursday, February 28, 2008

MY (ALMOST) FINAL THOUGHTS ON HUCKABEE

Well loyal readers of this blog (which have dwindled to a handful due to my laziness and lack of motivation to do the hard thing), I apologize for my prolonged absence. With a 8 to 5 Monday through Friday work week and then after taking care of a load of other small responsibilities, time becomes a rare quantity.

As a longtime Huckabee supporter, I think I can say with good confidence that Gov. Huckabee won't become the nominee. I still support him 100%, but losing is part of the process, it doesn't mean the sky is going come crashing down. God is still there, He is still in control. I trust in Him more than the chariots. So, that gives me a sense of calm and confidence.

[UPDATE: I would still love to see Gov. Huckabee be the nominee, but unless McCain messes up somewhere along the line, I can't see Gov. Huckabee attaining it]

Some Reflections on what has happened so far

I think everyone agrees that South Carolina was the turning point on the GOP side when McCain beat Huckabee by a minuscule margin of 3%. Fred Thompson was nothing but the spoiler candidate in the race and he single-handedly made McCain the presumptive GOP nominee. He never attacked McCain while calling others liberal. He wanted avenge for his failures by taking down Gov. Huckabee with him.

Florida came along and having 4 candidates by that time became a nuisance. Giuliani had staked his future on that one state so the media had to pay attention to him. Romney had the money so he couldn't be ignored. McCain just won South Carolina thanks to Thompson and so he had to be considered. Gov. Huckabee who narrowly lost South Carolina also lost a bit of momentum and it hurt his fundraising capabilities. He couldn't play hardball like the other boys and spend his money on a winner take all state like Florida. Some radio commentators started to spread the rumor that Huckabee isn't competing in Florida which exacerbated the situation. Huckabee at the end stole some votes from Romney which essentially stalled Romney's campaign.

Then came super Tuesday and I had the honor of voting for Gov. Huckabee in the Oklahoma primaries. I was a bit disappointed with the overall outcome in my state. On the positive side, Gov. Huckabee did well in states that many least expected him to do well in. Even I was shocked. In many of the southern states that Huckabee lost to McCain, Romney was the spoiler candidate. Huckabee gained more momentum as a result and the media became contrite over its ignorance of Huckabee and started to pay more attention. That was temporary, of course.

Then Romney dropped out, and things looked a bit better at that point. I figured that the media would look at McCain and Huckabee equally, but by that time the media already named McCain the de-facto nominee. The establishment looked at the number of delegates McCain and Huckabee had and decided to back McCain instead of letting him dwindle out there. It's understandable.

Huckabee didn't win any primaries since then and as of today, his most faithful group of supporters are the only ones still beside him - the evangelicals. He had support among other demographics early on, but the media narrative was that Huckabee only got the white evangelicals and nobody else. Regardless of the outcome, he is legitimately making the case that the nomination process has not ended and issues must be debated. I sincerely hope he can pull off a victory in Texas. That will give him more clout, but still he will be short of delegates. I believe McCain will get very close to the magic number of 1191 by March 4th. Gov. Huckabee won't stick around to fight for 20 - 40 delegates. I can see him pulling out on March 5th gracefully.

Where Huck failed

Obviously hindsight is 20/20. I noticed a lot of weaknesses early on with the campaign and noted it here in a blog post back in October. I wish many of those things were corrected but the campaign was so busy that it had no time to look back and learn from the mistakes.

  1. Failure to expand his constituency: It is clear that Gov. Huckabee only had the evangelicals and unfortunately thats not enough to win a presidency. The Christian Leader Ad, and the comment about changing to constitution to align with God's word made things worse. On the latter, he did try to restate the point he was trying make but that nevertheless caused a lot of damage in expanding his base of support.
  2. Failure to communicate fiscal conservatism and national security: Gov. Huckabee is an excellent communicator but he never did explain with credibility why he is a fiscal conservative and why he believes in a strong national defense. He chose not to speak the fiscal conservative language, but instead used a populist tone to reach out to the Reagan democrats. Unfortunately the Reagan democrats were most likely turned off by his Christian views and didn't turn out the way that the campaign expected. Conservatives dislike emotional and empty rhetoric, thats should be a major lesson for any candidate in the future.
  3. Failure to organize his campaign: Yes, Gov. Huckabee probably has run the most efficient campaign in recent U.S. History. He has virtually no debt and is running under a very frugal budget. However, those same positives turn into negatives in the eyes of the public and the media. That's the reality, building an organization is not just imperative when it comes to running a strong campaign, but it also gives you credibility and clout in the eyes of the media. The more media coverage you get, the better your chances will be.
  4. Failure to provide substance (the meat): Gov. Huckabee has been always reluctant in explaining his policy proposal in detail. He hasn't taken the time to explain his immigration proposal in detail and in all honesty, I don't think he knows all of the provisions in his 9 point immigration plan. He constantly refers people to visit his website and check it out for themselves. He has a tendency to explain complex policy details in very lofty and vague terms. People want to hear substance, they get tired of the milk after a while.
Where Huck succeeded
  1. He brought a new generation of young evangelicals into the political process: One great example of this is HucksArmy.com. Most of the members of the group are under 30. There is a certain amount of frustration among young evangelicals that the government has failed to deliver and failed to understand the importance of social conservatism. Gov. Huckabee's idea of vertical politics inspired many to join alongside him. His ability to communicate very eloquently, and his ability to reach out to liberals inspired many as well. It's very rare to see a staunch social conservative like Gov. Huckabee go on a show like the Daily Show or the Colbert Report and get a lot of laughs. I can promise you one thing: as a result of his campaign, many young evangelicals will step up and follow his lead in getting more involved in the political process.
  2. Communicating social conservatism with a smile: There are countless occasions where I see him talk to a liberal media host and defend his views on marriage and abortion with ease. It is very hard to argue against him because he makes so much sense. He uses analogies and other logical conclusions to explain his strong convictions. He's able to make a quick witty remark and at the same time explain the truth behind his convictions.
  3. Making the Fair Tax proposal popular: I would've never heard of the fair tax if it weren't for Gov. Huckabee. He explained why he supported this proposal very well and convinced many people to back him because of it . Regardless of Gov. Huckabee's future, I will still remain to be a supporter of the fair tax. It is THE most fiscally conservative proposal out there in the marketplace of ideas.
  4. Disproving the notion that you need to raise a lot of money to stay in the race: Gov. Huckabee did show the elite how one can remain in contention without the huge resources and organization. People are much more powerful than what the media or the establishment would like to admit. I got tired of the media pundits who would come on and essentially decide for the people. Each American is smart enough to make an educated choice for themselves. I think the outcome would've been different if Huckabee was treated as someone had a shot at winning. Perceptions matter, and it definitely matters in a presidential contest.

Where am I headed after this?

Good question. Most likely I will become more involved with the local GOP party and get to know the establishment figures. Thankfully OK GOP is very open to newcomers and young republicans like myself. In the long run, I would love a chance to serve the people of Oklahoma in some capacity in the future if that is where I am needed.

As far as other short term goals are concerned, I will be blogging at a different website. I registered the domain LearntoReason.org and I intend to blog about Christianity and current events. I'm still in the process of setting up the logistics and I hope the readers of my blog will continue to follow my progress over there.





2 comments:

Cindy said...

I agree he failed in failing to communicate his fiscal conservatism and national security message--big mistake.

Unlike you, though, I'm not ready to say he won't be the nominee...not yet. Thanks for all your efforts with Huck's Army.

Justin said...

I can't say that I have totally given up, I just think based on reality that by March 4th, we will know whether Gov. Huckabee can keep going on or not.

Texas is definitely a must win. I haven't done my math on what the delegates in Ohio and Rhode Island add up to, but since McCain is awefully close to 1000, theres no doubt he will be at least 60 to 70 delegates away by March 5th.

Its in the hand of the voters and I certainly don't believe that it is bad omen for me to predict something that I wouldn't like to see. I'm not calling Huckabee to step down at all, he has the right to stay in the race.