While many are turning to some of the second tier candidates, especially Mike Huckabee after his surprise "victory" at the Ames Iowa Straw poll, conservatives should take a closer look at these candidates before they jump of their respective band wagons.
Mike Huckabee, of all the second tier candidates, seems the mostly likely to challenge the unholy trinity (McCain, Romney, Giuliani). But Huckabee is far from the "authentic conservative" he claimed to be when he entered the Presidential race.
I can't lie, part of me likes Huckabee.
There is not doubt that he will be 100% pro-life and 100% pro-gun. However, Huckabee's populist rhetoric and big-government solutions have me running scared.
Yesterday, Huckabee called for a national smoking ban. (You can watch the video here.)
While I'm not a smoker, the issue of federally mandated behavior control is at the heart of nanny-government. While I enjoy going to Colorado restaurants and bars and not smelling like John Boehner's ash tray, but there is a larger, small-government issue at stake.
This sort of populism is a branch of the tree of George W. Bush's so-called "Compassionate Conservatism" that he has used to grow the size, scope and authority of federal government. Bush's brand of nanny-big government "conservatism" has expanded government to levels that the Clinton's only dreamed about. To all appearances, it looks like Huckabee is part of this big-government crowd.
Adding this idea to Huckabee's comments about main street vs. wall street, his opposition to school choice vouchers, as well as his references to the "club for greed" should give all conservatives pause.
It is also informative that long time Arkansas political writer John Brummett believes that Huckabee is cut from the same political tactics mold as Bill Clinton:
Mike Huckabee has always had a more liberal side than the left thinks and Hillary Clinton a more conservative one than the right thinks. ...
First, the liberal side of Huckabee:
Fresh from his Iowa straw vote impetus, which came courtesy of his conservative side, Our Boy Mike appeared at the monthly newsmaker breakfast of the Christian Science Monitor. What he pronounced prompted an official with the Club for Growth, the extreme economic conservative group that's been trying without success to bedevil him, to say disapprovingly that Huckabee sounded like he was doing "John Edwards' poverty tour."
At this breakfast, Huckabee declared that:
-People aren't doing as well economically as broad indicators suggest. Costs of health care, gasoline and college tuition have them struggling to break even. The next president must be sensitive to that.
-It's ridiculous to say God belongs to any school of political thought. One's religious values must influence more issues than abortion. Those values should make one an environmentalist who cares about poor people. (He didn't say anything about "environmental wackos," which he uttered last century in one of his right-sided moments.)
-Governors without much foreign policy experience can succeed in foreign affairs, as evidenced by the performances of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and, get this, Bill Clinton. Huckabee didn't mention the similarly situated George W. Bush, coming back later under questioning only to say he meant no disrespect to the current president and that history will judge Bush more favorably than contemporary views.
Part of this is tactical by Huckabee. But part of it is genuine. He is a political quilt with patches of pettiness, meanness, hyperbole, hypersensitivity, ethical impairment, generosity and open-minded compassion.
(H/T: Politico.com's Jonathan Martin blog.)
Bottom line: a Huckabee presidency would be a Pyrrhic victory for the Conservative Movement.