A friend in the Capitol community e-mailed me this morning to ask what he called the “Question du Jour”:
Huckabee trails Romney by only an average of 1 – 2 points. Why is the media treating the Republican primary as a 2 man race?
Here’s what I answered:
It’s because he hasn’t won since Iowa and his only second place finish was South Carolina, which was another evangelical state. He hasn’t shown any broad appeal. Florida was the first primary state that looked like America — southern and northern, young and old, native borns and immigrants, multiracial — and he was down in the pack with Giuliani.
That’s one reason. The other is the perception in the media that he isn’t a serious presidential candidate. They think he’s been angling for #2 from the start. They think his proposals aren’t well thought out, especially the so-called fair tax, which would hurt the middle class that he wants to help. And, I think, the godless media has a prejudice against his status as a preacher. Believe me, if they thought he was serious, they would be going after his Arkansas record, and there is plenty to go after.
All this begs the question of why Romney is still treated as a serious presidential candidate. He had a strategy that depended upon winning Iowa and New Hampshire and won neither. He won Nevada, where half of his votes came from Mormons — not a typical state. He won Michigan, where his father was governor, by making the bizarre promise that the lost automobile jobs could come back, which is impossible. (He’s not the first politician to promise what he can’t deliver.) He blanketed Florida with his commercials, running 9+ for every one that McCain ran, and lost. He is a smart man with a record of accomplishment in politics and business, but politics is not about resumes; it’s about connecting with people, which Romney can’t do. He remains viable only because (1) He has the money to keep on losing; (2) He is the only candidate who conservatives can rally around — but the conservative base is split because the evangelicals aren’t comfortable with his religion and the mainstream is put off by his flip-flops. That leaves him with one loyal constituency: the fiscal conservatives–the business community–and that isn’t enough to win anywhere.
The person who gummed up the works was Fred Thompson. He was supposed to be the savior of the conservatives. He could have united the mainstream conservatives and the evangelicals. But he was a mirage from the start. He was old and tired and not hungry. The fire was gone. It’s amazing that he polled in the 20s for a long time. The base wanted him to be the candidate they needed. But he wasn’t up to it. So the last tree standing in the forest is McCain.