The GOP Horse Race

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Mike Huckabee’s recent ascent through the polls is about to reverse itself. 

Looking through RealClearPolitics news stories and polls, I saw a pattern:

  * Huckabee says something stupid
  * Romney fires off attack ads on Huckabee
  * Huckabee makes something up that might not be true
  * Romney fires off attack ads on Huckabee
  * Huckabee attacks Romney's ads
  * Repeat until sick

Let’s assume that people in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and the Palmetto State are not sadists who pick a candidate based primarily upon his or her ability to insult and impugn opponents.  While negative advertising works well in politics, it works better between parties than within them.  With McCain now attacking Romney, we can fairly safely predict

  * The negative ads against Huckabee will hurt him badly, especially since they're corroborated by Huckabee's international ignorance and questionable honesty
  * The negative ads against Romney will prevent him from gaining from Huckabee's demise
  * McCain's numbers are locked in, just as they were in 1999-2000
  * Voters are tired of candidates whose last names end with a long "ee" sound (or maybe that's just me)

Huckabee’s credibility on foreign policy is dead, and his reputation for honesty isn’t too healthy.  In addition to his inexcusable gaffes about Pakistan, Ed Morrissey points to a Politico report in which Huckabee told reporters that former UN Ambassador John Bolton agreed to join his team.  Bolton, however, denied that he’d even spoken to Huckabee’s team. 

California Conservative points to another recent gaffe of Huckbee’s, in which he seemed to indicate that foreign policy is not important since a president can “pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work” in the State Department.  That’s like saying a cancer patient can simply grab any of the 500 employees of Barnes-Jewish Hospital to treat his disease. 

WE are told that conservative Christians powered Huckabee’s recent rise.  If true, then the beneficiary of his demise will have to be a social conservative and, likely, a Christian.  That eliminates Romney (Morman), Giuliani (social liberal), McCain (unclear social position) from the displaced voter pool.  This might be wishful thinking, but Thompson would stand to gain the lion’s share of disheartened Huckabee voters.

Another point in Thompson’s favor is his below-the-radar position.  By avoiding negativity, Thompson has lost the free advertising the others have enjoyed, but he’s also avoided foreign object damage from negative ads aimed his way.  If Thompson can use his recent fund raising success to present himself as a positive, conservative alternative to the mudslingers, empty suits, and liberals, he could score a big surprise in Iowa.

Whatever Thompson’s fate, Huckabee is done.  Republicans may not list foreign policy as their top criterion, but they will not nominate a foreign policy lightweight who lies.

UPDATE:  CBS News has found at least one Iowa voter who is switching from Huckster to Thompson because of Huckabee’s foreign policy blunders:

Could Huckabee’s lack of foreign policy experience be hurting him in Iowa? It made the difference tonight for at least one voter at a Fred Thompson event in Fort Madison.

“I was a Huckabee supporter until about a week ago,” said Brian Wright, a Fort Madison resident. “And then I heard his comment about Pakistan today.”

Candidate switchers are like mice–if you see one, there’s a whole bunch you haven’t seen.