A GOP Veepstakes Aside
Many conservatives are swallowing hard and coming to accept that John McCain is the best option out there. But I wonder if that will change should Mike Huckabee become the VP choice. James Pethokoukis has the scoop:
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain’s short list for a running mate. At least that’s the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain’s inner circle. The fundraiser is less than thrilled with the idea of Huckabee as the vice presidential nominee, and many economic conservatives—turned off by the populist tone of Huckabee’s campaign and his tax record as governor—are likely to share that marked lack of enthusiasm. But here is the logic of picking Huckabee:
1) He is a great campaigner and communicator who could both shore up support in the South among social conservatives (Huckabee is a former Baptist minister) and appeal to working-class voters in the critical “Big 10” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio.
2) As any pollster knows, voters search for candidates who “care about people like me,” and Huckabee would probably score a lot higher on that quality than millionaire investor Mitt Romney. Plus, given all the turmoil on Wall Street, 2008 would seem to be a bad year to pick a former investment banker for veep.
3) Economic conservatives and supply-siders may balk, but the threat of four years of Obamanomics and higher investment, income, and corporate taxes might be enough to keep them on board.
Let me add that a top Republican political strategist told me about a month ago that he also believed Huckabee to be the leading veep contender.
It might seem like a smart political move in the short term as explained by Pethokoukis. However, should McCain go with Huckabee, setting him up as the presumptive heir, it would signal to conservatives that McCain was attempting to change the ideological foundation–and future–of the GOP from center-right to populist-middle. (Heck, he could go with Hillary Clinton and achieve the same thing). Of course, if Huckabee is the choice, I suspect that many conservatives will throw their hands in the air and just stay at home and McCain would lose anyway. We’ll see.