Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Populist Huckabee's Bipartisan Appeal

So you like Mike Huckaee, huh? I've got something to cure you of that affliction. DailyKos likes him as well -- because he bucks conservative orthodoxy pretty consistently.

David Sirota points out that Huckabee is uncomfortable with free trade, supports a minimum wage, sounds like a Democratic populist on health care, and signed a statewide smoking ban.

Meanwhile, Mickey's favorite Ezra Klein suggests that on drug use and abuse, Huckabee sounds almost like a Democrat:

According to Rivera, he also calls the "three-strikes" law "the dumbest piece of public-policy legislation in a long time" and argues that "We don't have a massive crime problem; we have a massive drug problem. And you don't treat that by locking drug addicts up." Its good enough rhetoric to post twice.
They sound complimentary, but let's go to Huckabee's website to see whether guys like Klein and Sirota would really have a hard time attacking him during the general election. On health care:
We can make health care more affordable by reforming medical liability; adopting electronic record keeping; making health insurance more portable from one job to another; expanding health savings accounts to everyone, not just those with high deductibles; and making health insurance tax deductible for individuals and families as it now is for businesses. Low income families would get tax credits instead of deductions. We don't need all the government controls that would inevitably come with universal health care.
Free-market health care? Forget it. Huckabee will be crucified by Huffington Post.

On economics:
The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities.
His stance on economics includes some of the populist trade rhetoric that earns him the compliments on the Left, but HuffPo won't read past the FairTax before attacking him for wanting to shift the burden even more heavily on the lowest earners (who of course, pay no income tax right now).

And then to balance it out, let's look at what Huckabee says regarding the war on terror:
Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believe in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god. We go to great extremes to save lives, they go to great extremes to take them. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy. I will fight the war on terror with the intensity and single-mindedness that it deserves.
No, he wouldn't win any accolades from the professional Left if he actually got the nomination.

But that's not the key test of course. The question is whether Huckabee could make inroads among voters who haven't traditionally backed the GOP. I suspect that if he were the nominee, he might. A Republican candidate who talked about fair trade and wage equity might get a few more votes from lower-income voters who traditionally support Democrats. But in the heightened partisan atmosphere of a presidential race, with differences between the two candidates so sharply defined, I bet the number would be pretty small.

Further, the more populist rhetoric he indulged in, the more concern he would draw from the Wall Street Journal wing of the party. Therefore it's not clear to me that he would gain all that much.

And one also has to remember that the chances are almost nil that Huckabee will be the nominee. He is more likely to be a veep choice by someone like Romney or Giuliani -- northerners who don't want to lose the traditional GOP base in the South. But as the veep nominee, voters won't see much of the populist Huckabee. They'll just see another version of the man at the head of the ticket.

Note: Mickey also catches on to the fact that Huckabee isn't exactly in tune with conservatives on immigration.

Update: Soren says that Huckabee's foreign policy is 'neo-isolationist.' That seems a fair characterization.

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