Friday, December 14, 2007


Seven weeks ago I fell down a rabbit hole into a netherworld of vocational agony and professional purgatory the likes of which I have never experienced this side of a pink slip. It made the nightmare of a budget season of three years ago look like wearing the lamp shade at the office Christmas party (minus the head cold, he admitted grudgingly - on the infirmity front I had to settle for several more years being shaved off my lifespan in artery-hardening and hypertension instead). The most conspicuous effect it had here was my conspicuous absence beyond the minimum posts on war news headlines and devotional passages, with the occasional desperate weekend catch-up post here and there.

Before I was waylayed, the dynamics of the presidential primary contests on both sides were long since set. Hillary was the Democrat nominee and next president of the United States, and Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney were fighting a valiant uphill struggle against runaway GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani, with FDT leading in South Carolina, Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Giuliani everywhere else.

I'll get to the Dems in the morning as part of my show prep. Here I'll examine what in the blue hell has happened to the Republican side of the race, and most likely fail miserably to make any sense of it.

Well, that might be a tad overstated. I maintained for months that I didn't think Mayor Giuliani was nominatable. Any Republican that defends Roe v. Wade yet promises to nominate federal judges in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito had, it always seemed to me, a huge credibility problem that logically should extend to every other right-wing promise in his platform and would combust his candidacy when the GOP electorate started paying attention in earnest. Besides which, I also believed that Rudy was leading based upon national name-recognition and celebrity more than anything else, and that wouldn't be enough by itself to carry him to the nomination.

Similarly, I have never been sold on Mitt Romney, the supposed GOP wunderkind of the '08 cycle. He seemed to be a sort of reformed Republican Bill Clinton, a RINO with a comprehensively center-left background that may or may not have been forced upon him by the necessity of having to win election in a hard-left state like Massachusetts, but which he only recently, and awfully conveniently, shucked off when he pursued his presidential ambitions to the national stage. His stage presence and smooth-talking delivery smacked of the same sort of Clintillian opportunistic ersatzness, while at the same time lacking anything remotely resembling the killer instinct that fuels the invincibility of the Clinton Machine.

Governor Romney pursued the eminently conventional strategy of trying to win Iowa and New Hampshire going away in order to vault himself to the perception of inevitability that his general election opponent has enjoyed from day one. But that made him the "rabbit" of the race, and as in any competitive endeavor, if you reach the top too soon, there's nowhere to go but down. And I believed that sooner or later, after all these months somebody would clothesline the Mittster off the summits of those two early mountains.

The man I assumed would do the clotheslining was, of course, our candidate, former Tennessee Senator and this campaign's voice of reason, Fred Thompson. He had all the momentum back in the summer, with rumors circulating that he was going to jump into the race after the fourth of July. Except he didn't, and that momentum dissipated, only to revive when he did formally declare his candidacy after Labor Day. However, inexplicably, FDT has gone straight downhill ever since, to where he's struggling to stay above single digits nationally.

Even more inexplicable is the identity of the man who has accomplished what I predicted before my recent excruciating disappearance from these hallowed pixels: ex-Arkansas Governor and should-be-running-for-the-Senate-instead Mike f'ing Huckaburger. I've just gotten through updating the numbers, and the results are jaw-dropping:

NATIONAL: Huckabee by 1

IOWA: Huckabee by 11

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Romney by 14 (Huckabee a close third)

MICHIGAN: Huckabee by 1

NEVADA: Romney by 3.5 (Huckabee a close third)

SOUTH CAROLINA: Huckabee by 8

FLORIDA: Huckabee by 4

CALIFORNIA: Giuliani by 14 (Huckabee a close third)

You do the math. Romney's "win early" strategy has been halved, Giuliani's Florida "firewall" has been breached (Huckabee went from fourteen points down ten days ago to eight points ahead yesterday, a twenty-two point surge in the space of nine days), and Ready Freddie's Palmetto state beachhead is a distant memory. Rudy still has home court advantage in "back yard" states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but even there Huckaplucka is closing the gap.

How is this possible? Divine intervention? Mass, party-wide psychosis? Ghosties and beasties? Huckleberry is the polar opposite of Giuliani, solid on social/moral/values issues but Rockefelleroid on taxes, federal spending, domestic policy, and decidedly wobbly on the war. If the one-time master of Gotham was unnominatable because of his support for abortion on demand and gay rights, I would think Huckaglukbuk would be just as radioactive over his penchant for tax hikes and national security knock-kneedness.

Hmmm; "Huckleberry is the polar opposite of Giuliani". That sounds familiar, somehow. Let's see; which GOP bloc was it that was most alarmed at Rudy's frontrunner status, to such a degree that a few months back some of its stalwarts were threatening to bolt the party altogether and commit third-party suicide?

Ah, yes, now a pattern seems to be emerging. And I would have been the first to nail it, too, if I had the incalculable advantage of being a professional blogger like somebody whom I nakedly (but good-naturedly) envy:
It appears that the evangelicals have begun to make their voice heard in this race. For months, they complained about the lack of choice for their constituency, even at one point threatening to splinter into a third party. Instead, they seem to have collected themselves and looked for the most representative candidate in the race - and Huckabee has the strongest record on pro-life and social-conservative causes.
What the Admiral doesn't say, but I will, is that evangelicals - of which, you should recall, the two contributors to this site are card-carrying members, except on this issue - have broken ranks just as many threatened to do earlier in the year - but not in the same way analysts thought. Rather than leaving the GOP altogether, they are lining up behind the candidate who best embodies their issues stances - but ONLY on their issues. There's no pretense of coalition building or uniting behind the most electable general election standardbearer. The burgeoning ranks of Huckamaniacs are, for all intents and purposes, flipping off the rest of the Reagan Coalition, the supply-siders and federalists and budget hawks and "neocons". They've gone provincial; they're looking out for number one. And they're taking what was an already-uphill battle to keep the White House from falling back into Clintonoid hands and transforming it into a rout of, well, biblical proportions.

I will say it right here, right now, because I don't have to wait and see, or devote more than token skullsweat, to predict what a Huckabee nomination would precipitate: a party split comparable to that which a Giuliani candidacy would generate, and an ensuing blowout defeat next November the blame for which would be hung, ironically, around the necks of the same party wing that would be blamed for a like Rudy loss: religious conservatives. It would be 1992 magnified, leaving a reeling, riven GOP, a truimphant Democrat party with enormous, invincible congressional majorities, and a megalomaniacal Clinton ruling the country once more.

My brethren may think they're exacting their revenge, if nothing else, for getting dissed, or whatever their reasoning process is in deciding to jump on Mother Hucker's bandwagon. But they're just fooling themselves, and making a Hillary presidency even more inevitable than it was already.

And the biggest irony of all? The Admiral concludes:
Can Huckabee make that sale? Can anyone in this race make the whole-package sale? Obviously not, and that's why some have taken a second look at the Arkansas governor.
Mr. Morrissey is wrong. Not only is there someone in this race who can "make the whole-package sale," he's already done so. If you doubt that, and you consider yourself a Reagan conservative, go see for yourself.

Fred Thompson is solidly right-wing across the issues spectrum, showing more boldness on the looming entitlements crash than the rest of the field combined, and has the country-fried avuncularity and eloquence to not only sell the package, but close the deal eleven months from now - even against the mighty Hildebeast juggarnaut. No other candidate in the Republican race can make that claim without his nose growing to phallic dimensions.

Certainly not Mike Huckabee, whose first official act as the latest Republican frontrunner was to embody the pagans' coarsest Christophobic stereotypes and attack Mitt Romney's (admittedly cultic) religion.

Makes me feel like I've fallen down another rabbit hole.