Surrender to Huckabee!


Rock 'em sock 'em populist Democrat David Sirota is worried about Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. While the rest of the GOP are running as archetypical pro-business CEOs, Huckabee is running as an economic populist: More of a populist than frontrunning Democrat Hillary Clinton, even.

Huckabee… is differentiating himself not because he's funny, as lazy Washington reporters would have us believe, but because he sounds like a mainstream American on economic issues. (Sidenote: The only national beat reporter covering the '08 race that has actually done any real reporting on the substance of Huckabee's campaign is M.E. Sprengelmeyer at the Rocky Mountain News who astutely notes that Huckabee tells audiences he is not a "wholly owned subsidiary" of Wall Street, and uses "a populist pitch" revolving around talk about how "the Republican Party being in danger of being kept out of power for a generation if it's viewed as fighting for corporate interests, not the interests of real people.")

Unlike other leading Republican candidates who say more regressive tax cuts can fix bridges or who say Corporate America needs even more and bigger tax breaks, Huckabee is actually talking about the issues of corporate power and inequality that most people in the country understand is central to the challenges America faces.

Sirota is right, and I've seen Huckabee win over skeptical rooms from Mitt Romney (and I've heard friends talk of him doing the same to Fred Thompson) with his populism. The frontrunning candidate will make some noise about tax cuts and bash Hillary: Huckabee will talk about "main street" and "family-friendly" tax reform. Voters are irrational, after all.

The laissez faire side of the GOP is definitely worried about Huckabee. Some evidence: This Club for Growth ad running against him.

As much as I like the Club, the paradox is that Huckabee's policies are more popular than their policies. It's easier to imagine a backslapping, economically squishy Huckabee/Tim Pawlenty ticket holding the presidency for the GOP than is to imagine a win by Romney, who's absorbing all the Bush administration's aloofness and unpopular policies.

(Headline explained here.)