Monday, January 21, 2008

Mike "Mitt-Killer" Huckabee?

Over at The Politico Jonathan Martin posits that Huckabee is running for VP and is in fact running interference for McCain by intentionally locking up the Social Conservative vote.

From The Politico:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — For people reading between the lines, Mike Huckabee’s concession speech here Saturday night dropped some enticing hints that his presidential campaign now has an agenda other than getting elected president.

Huckabee’s new role: Mitt killer.

The former Arkansas governor threw air kisses on primary night to winner John McCain, praising him for “running a civil and a good and a decent campaign.”

He also signaled clearly that he is staying in the race, despite losing three straight states. Exit polls in South Carolina indicated — as they had in the previous three contests — that Huckabee did virtually nil with voters beyond his base of conservative evangelicals, raising doubts that he has a plausible path to the GOP nomination.

But as long as Huckabee is campaigning vigorously, he is likely to draw a sizable bloc of social conservatives — and deny former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the direct one-on-one contest he is hoping for against McCain.

Now that the race is headed to a critical showdown in Florida, Huckabee is well-positioned to play the same spoiler role that Thompson did in South Carolina. Only registered Republicans can participate in Florida — no independents, who gave McCain a boost in New Hampshire and South Carolina. These rules give more leverage to social conservatives, who are unlikely to back Rudy Giuliani under any circumstances but might be enticed into backing Romney if they had no Huckabee alternative.
It almost sounds like a wonk's conspiracy theory except for the fact that it does make a certain amount of sense. This is McCain's lat chance at the presidency and the GOP base isn't fond of him. But if he gets the nomination and Hillary wins the Dem nomination the base will rally to him just to keep her out of office. Huckabee in return gets either the VP slot or a cabinet post and is in a better position to run again in 2012 or 2016. Even if McCain loses the race Huckabee walks away with increased name recognition and at the very least an excellent shot at a senate seat in 2010 which in turn puts him in a position to run again once McCain is out of office. If this scenario proves to be true you have to give Huckabee major points for shrewdness.

Assuming Huckabee is running to be VP. McCain is the most logical choice. If he backs Rudy Giuliani he loses his authenticity with the base. Romney on the other hand is a Mormon and to many a flip flopper on social issues. Comparatively McCain is at least consistent on his issues and a "regular Christian". Hence by backing McCain Huckabee preserves his authenticity. What remains to be seen is whether or not what may be Huckabee's plan B proves true is whether or not he withdraws after losing Florida. If he continues after then he may prove to be enough of a spoiler on Super Tuesday to put McCain over the top on delegates. If that proves to be the case it'll show what level of politics Huckabee is capable of playing at and exactly just how desperate McCain is to be president.