Monday, February 4, 2008

Huckabee steals middle-class southern evangelical votes from rich northern Mormon?

It's driving me nuts. The MSM keeps repeating the same old trope. Apparently, they still believe that Christian conservatives are uneducated and easy to command. And the Romney camp and his pals at Clear Channel are feeding this idea to the media, suggesting that Huckabee supporters are just stupid fodder for McCain's campaign and ought to rally around their annointed resurrected Reagan, Mitt Romney.

I just saw on CNN Anderson Cooper asking Democratic strategist Donna Brazille if Huckabee's presence in the race is hurting Romney's chances in the South. (As though this liberal Democrat has some special insight into the minds of the conservative Republican electorate?) She of course gave the oft-repeated conventional wisdom without any real data top back it up.

But I keep wondering - how many people do these media political elites even know who is voting for Huckabee? Of course they probably don't know any because Huckabee's stronghold is not in the D.C. beltway and the Manhattan press offices. These are the people who couldn't imagine in 1980 that anyone was voting for Reagan because of course they didn't know anyone who was voting for Reagan. Well as long as we are peddling in anecdotes, I know a number of people who are Huckabee supporters and none of them are excited in the least about Romney.

Folks, there isn't just some abstract "conservative" vote out there that Romney and Huckabee are splitting. All four of the GOP candidates are conservatives of one stripe or another. Ron Paul is a paleolibertarian Robert Taft conservative. McCain is a progressive traditionalist - a conservative in intuition and values rather than ideology - a virtue warrior rather than a culture warrior. Huckabee is a reformist anti-globalist social conservative. And Romney is a white bread technocrat institutionalist conservative. The conservatism of Huckabee is in spirit at least as different from the conservatism of Romney as it is from McCain or Ron Paul.

Medved notes:

To believe that Huck and Mitt are dividing conservatives, you have to believe that Huckabee is a conservative --- which Romney, Limbaugh, Igraham, and countless others have been denying (stridently and strenuously) for months. . . Either the elite commentators were wrong when they labeled Huckabee a “liberal populist,” or they are wrong now when they say he’s stealing conservative votes from Romney. The only other alternative is that they view conservative voters as just too stupid to see Huckabee for what he really is.
Patrick Ruffini writes:
The Romney campaign’s February 5th math is simple: move all the voters from the Huckabee pile onto theirs and claim a majority of conservatives. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.
To this Brainster replies:
What do you mean, not simple? Just move the pile! Now note what's not said at all; what the Huckabee pile is going to receive in return; one suspects that it's the chance to help Mitt Romney over the hump. Now of course, it should come as no news to anybody that Mike Huckabee isn't interested in this game. He has on many occasions expressed his admiration for Senator McCain, and his disdain for Mitt Romney.
And it's not just Huckabee who prefers McCain to Romney. Huckabee supporters seem to feel the same way. These numbers show three-fifths of Huckabee voters having a favorable view of McCain, while less than two-fifths have a favorable view of Romney.

Ruffini also notes the cultural and geographical difference in the Romney and Huckabee vote:

The problem with this analysis is that I’ve seen no evidence that Huckabee voters would go to Romney. On a county level, the Romney and Huckabee votes are negatively correlated, with Romney representing the conservative side of the Chamber of Commerce/Rotary Club vote and not really showing outsized strength with Evangelicals.
I've been looking at this sort of county level results at my new political geography blog. In states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and South Carolina, Romney has done his best in the more urban areas, and Huckabee has done best in rural areas. McCain has done well in both urban and rural areas, among both lower and upper middle class, among both young and old. On a demographic level, it appears that McCain actually bridges the constituencies of the older and white-collar Romney voters and the younger and blue-collar Huckabee enthusiasts.

If we had excluded Huckabee from this race, its possible Fred Thompson could have gained some real ground in the Bible-belt deep South. But to expect that this would be the case for Romney is only slightly more realistic than the idea of Mormons voting en masse for Huckabee.

Is John McCain's nomination inevitable? No, it's not. It's possible that Romney will win the largest share of California's delegates. But McCain has locked up the Northeast (sans Massachusetts), and Romney looks like he's behind both McCain and Huckabee in every state south of the Mason-Dixon line or with a central time zone. Romney's road to the nominattion depends on a few closed caucuses along with his support from Money, Mormons, Michigan, and - maybe - Massachusetts. It's not impossible , but- as Anna Marie Cox points out*- it requires a bit of mental gymnastics.

*h/t ENHQ


agathon said...

First Rush and the gang said Huckabee was "too liberal." Now they whine that he's stealing too many conservative votes from Romney. Then they repeat the mantra that he can only win in the South. Yet the state he cleaned Romney's clock in was not in the south--it was Iowa. Huckabee is a candidate supported by Duncan Hunter and the minutemen. Yet he's "weak on immigration?" When are we going to stop listening to the country-club RINOs like Rush, Hannity, Ingraham and Levin? They're trying to shove Mitt Kerry down out throats and it's gonna come back to bite 'em.

peter said...

I think you need to change Mormon to m^3 Mitt the Millionaire Moron.