The best political news from this weekend is the fact that Mike Huckabee failed to win a majority among evangelical voters in South Carolina.
What accounts for this defeat of Democrat-style identity politics? Probably a number of factors.
First, “Huckabee was not a lock for evangelicals here because there are so many evangelicals here,” Oran Smith of the Palmetto Family Council told the Washington Post. “The more members of a group, the more diverse. Some voted for McCain because he was a straight shooter, others liked experience and electability . . . just like everyone else.”
Okay, it’s not the clear rejection of the scandal of the evangelical mind that I’d have preferred, but it’s at least a rejection of lock-step identity voting.
Second, Gov. Huckabee’s own organization, or lack of it, was apparently a factor in his defeat. According to the Post, after winning in Iowa, his campaign had to decide whether to “broaden their base” or to focus on states where they could reasonably expect to perform well. As befits Gov. Huckabee’s ill-grounded approach to public policy, he tried to do a little of both, and succeeded at neither. After dividing his time among New Hampshire, Michigan, and South Carolina, he lost in all three primaries.
Much of his staff went to South Carolina ahead of him. His daughter and national field director arrived nine days before the primary to find inadequate space, phone lines, and internet service. If they’d been counting on “the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people“, they miscalculated.
Third, and most importantly, voters are becoming more aware of how liberal Gov. Huckabee really is. Late last year, conservatives were desperate for a strong candidate. Because he’s pro-life, many hoped Gov. Huckabee might be the right guy. But as the knowledge about his liberal domestic record and his ignorance of foreign affairs grows, conservatives are realizing more and more that he’s just another liberal, and not an especially bright or informed one.
Finally, I guess the squirrel eaters stayed home.