For weeks, the right-wing sycophants like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have made Tax Hike Mike the whipping boy of Mitt Romney’s crumbling campaign. Hannity has gone as far as to state that if Mike Huckabee had left the race after South Carolina, Romney would have been the front-runner heading into Super Tuesday. The “mainstream media”, for its part, has done nothing but perpetuate this falsehood, never questioning that “Huckabee takes away conservative votes from Romney.” It’s a charge that has gone almost entirely unchallenged by nearly everyone, save Mike Huckabee himself. Slowly and surely, almost everyone bought into the idea that Huckabee was just “in cahoots” with McCain.
But to quote the “authentic conservative”, the truth is a stubborn thing. The truth of the matter is that if Huckabee is “hurting” anyone, it’s John McCain. As evidence, I submit to you this poll taken prior to Super Tuesday. It shows that in a two-man race between Romney and McCain, Romney’s numbers remain relatively stagnant, well below thirty-percent of the popular vote. On the other hand, McCain surges with Huckabee’s name off the ballot. His poll numbers shoot up into the low sixties. There are those who argue that national polls such as this are “aged” and “meaningless”. While I would certainly argue the point, I would much rather just present the following. According to the exit polling in Florida, of the voters who chose Mike Huckabee, fifty-five percent preferred John McCain as their second choice, as opposed to the 32% percent who preferred Romney. There is also the issue of Iowa, where despite a huge Huckabee win, Mitt Romney still managed to edge out John McCain. Edge him out that is, by double the percentage points.
So why the willingness to just buy into this “Huckabee steals votes from Romney” fable? What the right-wing pundits are intentionally and the mainstream media is unintentionally leaving out is that the “conservative” votes that make up Mitt Romney’s base are a completely different brand of “conservatives” than those who support Huckabee. For the most part, although with some exceptions, Mitt is supported by the pro-business/economic growth conservatives. And for the most part, although with some exceptions, Huckabee is supported by the fiercely evangelical southern conservatives. While the Hannitys and the Limbaughs of the world know the difference between the factions, the mainstream media is largely ignorant on what the main conflicts are in the great social conservative vs. fiscal conservative vs. libertarian debate–so when they hear a right-wing pundit say that candidate X is stealing conservative votes from candidate Y, they simply run with it.
The point is that Mike Huckabee isn’t really stealing votes from anyone. And if he is in fact “hurting” another candidate, then he’s hurting McCain. The debacle at West Virginia isn’t proof that Huckabee’s supporters would go for Romney. It’s proof that McCain will use his supporters to beat Romney, even if that means giving Huckabee an adrenaline injection before the polls close. Huckabee is a southern candidate with a solidly southern constituency. And let’s face it; the vast majority of his “base” are the same types of people who would move to Canada if a Mormon was elected to office. A vote for Huckabee is a vote for Huckabee. Romney needs to take his own advice and quit whining.
h/t to Jason Pye