How could an Evangelical Christian Pro-Lifer hope to get elected President? This question dogs supporters of Mike Huckabee more than anything else.
He explains his view in Chapter 9 of Do the Right Thing, “Let’s Get Vertical.” Huckabee’s argument is that while people who are party activists care about where a candidate’s positions land on a Horizontal (Left-Right) scale, most voters are more concerned about problems being solved and the country or state moving Vertically (up instead of down.)
The theory is perhaps the greatest answer to how a conservative politician or any politician succeeds. People will let a party have its way if the Economy is going well, the budget is being properly managed, education is improving, etc. It’s quite similar to what a newly minted Democratic Governor Howard Dean told Vermont Democrats in the early 1990s.
The one big myth that’s developed is the that of “The Centrist Idealogue.” You know the person who votes for the candidate who seems closest to the center. The model seemed out of touch with reality given wins by people on both extremes of the spectrum. Huckabee’s vertical theory holds more water and explanatory power towards politics than strict ideological view of voting.
Huckabee tells of several everyday people who came up to express support for him, even though they were Democrats or Independents such as a Taxi Driver in Des Moines, a skycap in O’Hare, and the flight attendants on a Los Angeles to Boston flight.
Huckabee does talk about Fred Thompson’s campaign and cites it as an example of a campaign that was focused on being most horizontal of the GOP campaigns. Thompson went after Huckabee as a liberal for receiving the endorsements of “Union of Mechanists and Aerospace Workers” as well as the “Painters Union” which Thompson used to go after Huckabee as a liberal.
Huckabee wrote, “What Fred failed to grasp (among the many things Fred failed to grasp about running for president) was that the endorsements did not reflect the unions’ total agreement with all my politics or policies. In fact, both unions had to deal with some heartburn about some of the positions I took that stood in direct conflict with their own official union positions. But I was the only GOP candidate who actually went and listened to them and gave them straight answers to their questions.”
Huckabee is clear that vertical politics means that conservative credentials don’t matter but “ideological purity without the capacity to deliver a more effective and efficient way of governing was no longer justifiable.”
He writes of life on the road and flying commerical during most of the ‘07-’08 Presidential Campaign, which while helping him connect with ordinary Americans who were suffering through a “Flinstones” Air Traffic Control system in the midst of a “Jetsons” Aerospace era. The downside for Huckabee is that he had to spend much more time in flight than other candidates who had charters, as direct trips from Little Rock to Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina were simply not available and required multiple connections.
The book also includes a look inside the making of the Huckabee-Chuck Norris ad which also produced a memorable blooper reel: