It’s a two-man race for the nomination.
The house that Reagan built has for a generation produced a winning coalition that has not only survived, but has laid the foundation for economic growth through lower taxes; national security through a robust national defense; and support for the institutions, customs and traditions that respect the sanctity of human life.
Last week’s debate in Orlando produced a clear winner: The GOP. We saw seven candidates who brought their A-games to the tussle, and I couldn’t be more pleased. A couple of things stand out. Guiliani began to separate himself from Rudy McRomney with a masterful critique of Hillary Clinton’s socialistic vision for the future. And, Huckabee began to differentiate himself from Fred Duncabee by demonstrating both effective rhetoric and clarity on social issues which will help him to claim broad support among values voters.
As the front-runner in national polls, Rudy has skillfully deflected criticism of his lack of social conservative bonafides by pointing to his record of governance and his leadership in post 9/11 New York City. Whether or not he will continue to overcome Romney’s money and McCain’s gravitas will depend upon the success of his argument that “It’s the Courts, stupid,” and his pledge to nominate strict constructionist Judges.
Huckabee faces a different challenge. Likability is not the problem. Money and organization is quickly becoming a non-issue after strong showings at both the Value Voters Conference and the Orlando debate. Attacks on his credibility–the one issue which trumps rhetoric–have begun in earnest. This one from Quin Hillyer, as well as the response from the Huckabee campaign is from the American Spectator:
Ask lots of folks in Arkansas, including Republicans, and a fair number will probably tell you that Huck is for Huck is for Huck. National media folks like David Brooks, dealing in surface appearances only, rave about what a nice guy Huckabee is, and a moral exemplar to boot. If they only did a little homework, they would discover a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak, and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics.
The criticism is telling. You could probably write a similar paragraph about any elected official in the country. The fact that Huckabee left office with nearly a billion dollar budget surplus and approval ratings in the 60’s, belies The Spectator’s characterizations. Attacks on Huckabee’s credibility have also surfaced on the Left: this one dealing with a statement the Governor made during the Orlando debate.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence were “brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen.”
The problem is not that the statement is factually incorrect. It is. Even using a broad definition of “clergymen,” having 22 of 56 of the signers meet this interpretation is not “most” as Huckabee stated, but it is certainly not “pants on fire” wrong either, as framed by the St. Pete Times. Perhaps in the interest of fairness, they would be willing to change their characterization. Perhaps not. I’m not holding my breath. If this is the worst mistake that Huckabee makes in the next few months, this small gaffe will be soon forgotten.
Whomever emerges as the eventual standard-bearer for the GOP, there is one statement from the Orlando debate that no one on the Right questions. When Mike Huckabee said, “There’s nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president,” he was speaking for a lot of us. And, given the fact that half the country will “never” vote for Hillary Clinton, it is more important than ever that the house that Reagan built remain united.
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