Though Huckabee’s star is still rising, his southern populism on trade and economic questions — and the blatancy of his appeals as a ‘Christian leader’ to Iowa’s religious voters — are so irritating to most Republicans that he is uniting the party nationally against himself. ~John O’Sullivan
It is far from obvious that this is true. This assumes that populism on trade and economic questions is an unpopular approach, and it assumes that most Republicans are not receptive to an evangelical who talks up his religion. That is probably a mistaken view.
He is uniting most conservative pundits and journalists against him, along with a number of activist groups, so from a certain perspective he does irritate “most Republicans,” if the Republicans you know write columns, work in think tanks, blog regularly or inhabit the I-95 corridor. There is a candidate who, unfortunately, has high unfavourables among Republicans, and that is Ron Paul. He unites most Republicans in opposition, since most Republicans support the war he adamantly opposes. Paul challenges them radically and repudiates most of what the party has been doing for the last seven years. That is how you get a majority of a party to unite against you–by attacking its most deeply valued policies. By contrast, Huckabee irritates his enemies out of all proportion to his heterodoxies, because he represents not so much a deviation from what the GOP is as he is a reminder of what it became under Bush as well as being a reminder of who actually makes up a huge part of the GOP coalition. This is irritating, since it reminds many of the pundits of the dreadful Bush administration that they have defended at one time or another, and it reminds them of the voters they would normally just as soon forget about once the ballots are counted.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee has favourables that are nearly as good as, if not better than, the other major candidates in every state where measurements have been taken. It’s possible that this will change as he becomes better known, but right now the people Huckabee is irritating seem to be concentrated among the highly unrepresentative people who are already extensively familiar with the details of his policy record and can quote his Cato Institute scorecard ratings as readily as Huckabee can cite Scripture. (A contrast in references, by the way, that might sum up nicely just how divorced political observers may be from the voters whose opinions they are attempting to discern.) In Florida, according to Rasmussen, he has a fav/unfav of 68/26, which gives him lower unfavourables than McCain, Thompson and Giuliani. Even in New Hampshire, where you would expect his unfavourables to be highest on account of the general incompatibility of Southern candidates in the Granite State, they are only 35%, and his favourables are 59%. In Michigan, the numbers are 67/22, and in South Carolina they are 70/21. In Iowa, of course, they are an unbelievable combination of 81/16 with 51% who have a very favourable view. These favourable numbers represent a lot of people who are not necessarily selecting him as their candidate, but they are also making it possible for him to compete or lead in every early state except New Hampshire. All candidates should be so lucky to “irritate” a majority of their party’s members in this way.