Could Mike Huckabee Have Beat Mitt Romney?

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The Republican Primary race is essentially over. Rick Santorum, having finally hit the end of his rope, has announced a suspension of his campaign. It’s going to be Romney versus Obama in November.

Rick Santorum was never a really strong candidate. For the longest time he polled at 1% in Iowa. Only when all the other non-Romney options were exhausted did Santorum begin to rise. But Santorum’s strength was always more anti-Romney than pro-Santorum. People voted against Romney, not for Santorum.

There was, however, another candidate who didn’t enter the field in 2012. This was Mike Huckabee. Mike Huckabee is a much stronger politician than Rick Santorum. Huckabee would have built the same coalition that Santorum built. And unlike Santorum, the people in Huckabee’s coalition would actually be voting for Huckabee rather than merely against Romney.

This leaves us a very interesting question: Could Huckabee have beaten Romney?

In many ways Huckabee would have been a super-charged version of Santorum. He would have done several considerably better amongst Santorum’s voters. On the other hand, he would have had many of the same weaknesses that eventually doomed Santorum. Given that Santorum never really came close to winning the nomination, that’s not good for Huckabee.

On the positive side, Huckabee would almost certainly have won conservative, evangelical Iowa – and probably by a lot. More likely than not he would have taken the state by double-digits. Huckabee would then have probably lost New Hampshire. But next would be South Carolina. Newt Gingrich, not exactly the strongest politician, won South Carolina with 40% of the vote. Huckabee probably would have broken 50%.

Here things get tricky. After South Carolina would have been Florida. This would have been one of those “must-win” states for Huckabee. At the same time, demographically Florida would have pretty unfriendly territory. Could Huckabee have developed momentum after two big victories in Iowa and South Carolina? Perhaps; Florida did give Gingrich some very good numbers before Romney started spending money.

After Florida the most symbolically important states would have been the Midwestern consortium of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Rick Santorum lost all of these states, which is why he’s not the nominee.

There’s a decent chance that Huckabee would have won Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Add 10% or 20% to Santorum’s score in the rural counties, along with higher turn-out by voters excited to vote for Huckabee rather than merely against Romney, and things start looking pretty bleak for Romney.

So it looks like Huckabee would have won quite a bit more than Santorum.

But that doesn’t mean that he would have won the nomination.

In 2008 Huckabee was quite weak in urban and suburban areas. There’s no reason to think that he would have done much better in 2012. It’s hard to imagine Huckabee winning in big-city states like California, New York, and Illinois. Losing those three states is pretty devastating for a campaign. To this you have to add Romney give-mes like Arizona, Massachusetts, and Utah.

Huckabee would have had to rely on winning the big states Florida and Texas. Both of these are quasi-Southern states, but they’re also home to a lot of non-Southern voters. Winning these states would not have been a cake-in-the-walk for Huckabee.

But more important than this are two structural weaknesses which doomed Santorum – and which Huckabee would also have had.

Firstly, Huckabee would have been heavily outspent. This was a big reason why Romney won: he outspent Santorum by outrageous margins. Unfortunately for Huckabee, the same thing would have happened with him. In 2008 Huckabee’s campaign was consistently on the brink of going bankrupt. There’s no reason to think that anything would have changed in 2012.

Secondly, the Republican establishment would have backed Romney. The establishment went heavily against Huckabee in 2008 (for reasons that are mysterious to me). It would have been firmly in the camp of Romney in 2012. By the end of the campaign, Fox News was pretending that Rick Santorum didn’t exist. Something similar might have happened with Huckabee.

All in all, it’s a roll of the dice whether Huckabee could have won. The best case scenario: Huckabee pounds Romney in Iowa, runs a close second in New Hampshire, breaks 50% in South Carolina, and then Mitt Romney says that he doesn’t care about poor people. It’s an open question whether momentum for Huckabee would have started setting in at this point, but let’s say it does and Huckabee takes a double-digit national lead. Huckabee wins Florida and then Michigan at the end of February. On Super Tuesday, Romney’s final stand, Huckabee breaks 65% in the South and wins Ohio by double-digits. Romney drops out and endorses Huckabee.

All in all, it’s fun to guess what would have happened in this alternate scenario. I personally would have preferred the Republican nominee to be Mike Huckabee rather than Mitt Romney. In the end, Huckabee stayed out because he thought that Barack Obama would win. That was probably the right reasoning.

 

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Is Obama Playing Rope-a-Dope?

Here was the headline on Yahoo tonight: Obama bows to Boehner on jobs speech

I can tell you what any progressive who has been paying attention thought, "Oh boy, here we go again."

President Obama has now changed the day of his address to Congress to accomodate the Republicans. They were having a GOP presidential debate on the original date he picked. So, Boehner told him to move his speech. He is the president for Christ's sake. Of course, they should have accomodated him, not the other way around. But as usual, President Obama bowed.

So, this leads to the eternal question of whether Obama is just weak or if he is a brilliant strategist who has been playing rope-a-dope all along. I am so silly that I still had hope. My hope this morning was that Obama was laying a trap for the Republicans. He picks a day for his speech that is the same as the GOP debate. Then if Boehner says he won't let him give the speech on that day, he seems so petty and harsh.

That way, either the president gives his big speech on jobs and bigfoots the Republican contenders or the Republicans look disrespectful and petulant for turning down the president. Well, if you're playing rope-a-dope, that's not a bad manuever. But it turns out that's not what he was doing at all. He just stumbled into this problem and then stumbled out when he let Boehner dictate when he could and could not have his speech. That looks so sad.

You see, if you're playing rope-a-dope, at some point you have to actually swing. When your opponent has worn himself out knocking you around the ring -- you counter-attack. But that counter-attack is never coming. We're holding our collective breath in vain.

Why is this definitely not rope-a-dope? Because Obama hates risk. Even his most ardent supporters will tell you that he does not like to take big risks. He thinks it is imprudent. They see that as one of his strengths. McCain was a wild gambler, Obama was a cautious and smart poker player. That's why he won the election.

But would a man who dislikes risk that much risk his entire presidency on a strategy where he gets pummeled for three straight years and then finally comes out swinging at the very end? No way. That's a tremendous amount of risk. I don't mind taking plenty of risks and I wouldn't do anything half that crazy.

No, the answer is much simpler. He doesn't realize he's getting pummeled. He thinks this is all still a genius strategy to capture centrists by compromising on every single little thing. He is not trying to put on an appearnace of weakness to lull his opponent into a false sense of compacency. He doesn't even realize he is being weak. He's the one with the false sense of complacency. As he's getting knocked around the ring, he thinks he's winning.

These guys in the Obama camp are in for a horrible, rude awakening. Sometime in the next year, they are going to blink and realize they are lying flat on their back on the canvas. Then as they finally stumble up, they'll realize they should have started fighting 11 rounds ago. Then a panic will set in, but I'm afraid it will be too late by then.

Here is what all voters, and especially independents, despise and disdain in a politician -- weakness. Nobody wants to see their leader get beat to a pulp every night and then bow his head again.

There is no secret, brilliant strategy. This White House is in a bubble. They think they're winning when the roof is about to cave in.

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