With the news that Mike Huckabee has started an exploratory PAC for an anticipated 2016 run, the DC consultant machine has gone from zero to full contempt mode pretty much instantaneously. As I’ve watched all this unfold across the blogosphere and twitter all weekend, I could not help but think that 90% of the contempt that Huckabee generates is borne of not-very-veiled bigotry against the deeply religious. It is yet another reminder of the lack of trust and respect Republicans have for their most dedicated voters.
Keep in mind, I don’t like Mike Huckabee as a Presidential candidate at all. I don’t like his fiscal policies, I don’t like his atrocious pardon record, I don’t like the way he comes off to swing voters. I think if he is nominated we will likely lose in a landslide. All of these are legitimate criticisms and I think it’s even fair game to say that the guy is still a little too much Southern fundamentalist preacher in his stump speeches.
What bothers me is the contempt that the consultant class has for the very idea that Mike Huckabee is a qualified or serious candidate. To listen to these people talk, Huckabee has no more right to be taken seriously than someone like Ben Carson who has never held or run for any office of any kind. This is just facially insane. The guy was a governor for a full decade, winning re-election twice, which indicates at least basic competency at the job of being chief executive. The number of other candidates in the field who can make that claim are exactly zero. (UPDATE: If Rick Perry runs, he will also fit this description. Huckabee’s executive/electoral experience still laps most of the expected field who will be treated as serious candidates.)
I think it is entirely fair to engage Mike Huckabee stridently on the substance. I think it’s fair to call him a nanny-stater and arguably fair to call him a tax-hiker, and definitely fair to question his ability to win in the general. What bothers me is that, resume-wise, Huckabee is pretty much the same guy as Jeb Bush. People who disagree with Jeb generally start their disagreement with Jeb’s policies and his tenure as governor. People who disagree with Huckabee generally start by attacking him personally as a chump, or a buffoon, or as a fraud.
Believe it or not, the people who get up early every Sunday morning and go to their Southern Baptist churches and who take the Bible as a serious proposition in terms of how they live their daily lives are smart enough to figure out why Huckabee gets this disparate treatment and what it means about how the folks in Washington, DC who are at least nominally on their side view them. In other words, for the sake of the coalition, maybe it would be worth toning back the contempt a little, for those who are able to manage it.