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Tomorrow’s John Edwards

Rod looks to the future [1]:

For us Huckaboosters, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for our man to drop out, and spend the next four years doing some hard thinking and networking, getting ready for 2012.

I don’t intend the title to be as insulting as it sounds.  What I mean is that a failed Huckabee run would put him in much the same position that Edwards’ failed ’04 campaign put him these last several years (and Edwards had the advantage, so to speak, of being the VP nominee, which I doubt Huckabee will receive given the intense hostility to him wthin the party leadership.)  Huckabee may spend the next several years doing hard thinking and networking if he drops out, but I doubt he will be preparing for another presidential run.  If the example of John Edwards tells us something, it is that repeat candidates for the nomination tend to perform less well in the second attempt (Reagan being a big exception that leaps to mind).  Despite his policy and philanthropy work in the last four years, and despite his intensive cultivation of supporters in the netroots and in Iowa, John Edwards has become a has-been and also-ran who does not yet realise that he is either one.  Given the incandescent loathing of Huckabee in elite conservative circles and among big-money donors, I don’t know exactly what kind of networking he could build that would make him more successful in four years.  Rod’s talk of Huckabee ’12 was premised on the speculation that the GOP loses this year and loses badly, which I think is quite likely at the rate they’re going, but then if that is what happens the incumbent Democratic President Huckabee would be running against would probably be, barring epic incompetence or disaster, able to resist any Republican challenger.

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1 Comment To "Tomorrow’s John Edwards"

#1 Comment By TomG On January 18, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

Minor quibble Daniel – You say “If the example of John Edwards tells us something, it is that repeat candidates for the nomination tend to perform less well in the second attempt (Reagan being a big exception that leaps to mind).” In addition to Reagan, Dole finished 2nd in ’88 and won the nomination in ’96, McCain finished 2nd in 2000, and might yet win the nomination this time around. Bush 41 finished 2nd in ’80 and won in ’88, but of course he was VP, which puts him in a different category. The point is that there is no clear evidence, at least on the GOP side, that candidates who make a decent showing but lose the nomination the first time around will not win in a later contest. There isn’t enough data here to make a strong case that Huckabee will emerge as a strong contender for a future GOP nomination, but there’s also not enough to make the contrary case either. I think it depends on how Huckabee’s campaign plays out. Assuming he loses SC to McCain, finishes well behind in Florida, and wins at most a handful of delegates on Super Tuesday in a few southern states and states with proportional primaries or caucuses, he probably becomes a non-factor for the future, sort of a footnote to this election cycle. On the other hand, if he can rally in SC, make a strong showing in Florida, win 5-6 states on Super Tuesday and make a strong showing in the proportional primaries and caucuses, and go to the convention with a substantial bloc of delegates, with the GOP subsequently losing the election badly, he might emerge as a dynamic force in the GOP in the next four years. It’s possible to imagine a scenario in which this all plays out, Huckabee makes a major effort to mend relations with the conservative elite, and they recognize that he or somebody like him is their best chance to regain control of the White House. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is likely to happen, but it is a reasonably plausible.