Huckabee: The Neighbor Next Door?

Forbes Trailwatch

Does Mike Huckabee have what it takes to win the Republican Party nomination? Not if you believe many of the experts, who, just days before the people of Iowa had their say on Jan. 3, downplayed the former Arkansas governor’s run for the White House.

The pundits have charged that Huckabee is too religious, too inexperienced, too conservative or--get this--too liberal. Huckabee surely did not help his stature with his numerous verbal gaffes in the closing stretch of the Iowa race.

Now that Huckabee is the Republican front-runner—at least for the next five days—he is bound to get additional scrutiny from the media. If there is anything that journalists love to do, it is to build up an underdog and then tear him apart once he moves to the head of the pack. It would not be the first time that the winner in Iowa failed to hold on to his momentum in later primaries. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to write off Huckabee as a fringe candidate whose credentials and experience disqualify him from serious consideration.

Huckabee’s positions on religion and social issues are not that different from those of the current occupant of the White House, or even Ronald Reagan, for that matter. He hardly seems less experienced than a former Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter, or a former Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton. Speaking of Clinton, he struggled in Iowa but ultimately triumphed in the 1992 primaries and won two general elections even though anyone with even a half-working television set understood that the man was a cad and a skirt chaser. Nor did less-than-sterling credentials prevent former Texas Gov. George Bush from reaching the highest office in the country.

One thing Huckabee does seem to lack: an inability to get people to hate him. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his values and positions, he comes across as the type of person that many of us would not mind having as a neighbor. Maybe this is why he has climbed so quickly in the polls and why he left Iowa with a victory on Thursday.
--Steve Kichen