Thursday, December 10, 2009
Huckabee Isn't Finished
Mike Huckabee is in hot water for his pardoning of a man who went on to commit murder in Tacoma, Washington. Some people are even saying that the decision will cost him a second chance to run for President. After all, Willie Horton helped do Michael Dukakis in.
I’m not sure Huckabee’s presidential hopes are over though. I have said many times that I think the most important issue in the 2012 campaign will be the economy. Huckabee can point to his relatively successful tenure as governor, and draw upon his working class background to relate to working families taking it on the chin in this economy. In a time when bailouts for Wall Street have drawn so much ire, I wouldn’t underestimate that sort of main-street appeal.
I think there are some important differences between Huckabee and Dukakis as well. With Dukakis, Willie Horton was just part of a devastating critique. He was a card-carrying member of the ACLU who opposed the death penalty and gave a bad, passionless answer when asked whether he would support capital punishment for someone who raped and murdered his wife. He also vetoed a bill requiring kids to say the pledge of allegiance in school. In short, he was a liberal elitist who hated America running against a world war two veteran (who of course was not the most charismatic figure in politics).
By contrast, Huckabee is a former Baptist preacher who carried out executions and supports having kids say the pledge. He is likeable in a way that Dukakis never was. All of this is to say that Huckabee’s leniency won’t necessarily allow certain charges to stick to him the way they did with Dukakis. Moreover, Huckabee’s other likely rivals have their own baggage. Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on important issues like gay rights and abortion in addition to lacking a connection with important working class voters. Sarah Palin has a major gravitas problem, having not even served a whole term as governor of Alaska. Perhaps someone like Tim Pawlenty can take advantage though.
It’s also important to discuss whether showing leniency to criminals is really so bad all the time. Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson makes a case that it is sometimes good here.