Rod suggested Huckabee might start building up his connections and ideas in a reformist direction in the wake of an ’08 failure in the primaries, I doubted the prospects for the success of such a move, and Ross noted the lack of institutional infrastructure for such “reform conservatism,” but I now realise that there is an additional problem with this beyond the fact that Huckabee is apparently also not terribly interested in ideas (something I think we assumed all along). Building on this conversation, Ross observes in a new bloggingheads, I think mostly correctly, that if Huckabee were to do what Edwards has done in his network-building, policy work and philanthropy he would end up building up support with the “Republican Party’s left.” This would be the same part of the party that is, I think it’s fair to say, in utter disrepute with a substantial number of Republicans after the debacles of the last seven years, but even that isn’t the most significant difficulty here.
Building support with the Republican left is, of course, exactly the opposite of the direction he’s been going in this year’s campaign, but it is also exactly what he needs not to do if he wants to be taken seriously by the mainstream movement figures as an acceptable candidate for the Presidency, since he has already been tagged by virtually everyone on the right variously as a Gersonist/Christian leftist, a not-very-closeted liberal or, in a memorable phrase, an “open borders drag queen.” Perhaps Huckabee’s “vertical politics” will save him. Otherwise, he will probably be tagged by the movement leaders as RINO and consigned to that political netherworld inhabited by the Republican Leadership Council, Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel.
Incidentally, the hilarity of the reaction to the Huckabee campaign is that the shouts about his nice-guy liberalism have grown louder in direct proportion to the increasing number of his hard-right poses (and at the moment I still assume they are just poses) on issues.