Sunday, January 6, 2008

More Talk on McCain-Huckabee

A few weeks ago, I suggested that a McCain-Huckabee ticket is probably the only way of keeping the GOP coalition together in any recognizable form for the foreseeable future.

Apparently, Ross Douthat had floated this idea in late November, a few weeks ahead of me. But in any event, Andrew Sullivan is now adding his concurrence to the idea that such a ticket is the most logical and "obvious" step for the GOP coalition. Sullivan's concurrence comes a few days after Noah Millman called such a ticket "blindingly obvious."

To review the argument I've been making on this issue:
1. It is impossible to be intellectually honest today and support the GOP establishment line wholesale. Since this is impossible, toeing the establishment line will permanently earn the distrust of at least one, and probably two core GOP interest groups. This is why the two "establishment" candidates failed to garner even a combined 30% of the vote in Iowa and may not break 40% combined in NH, which should be one of Romney's best states. As a result, there is probably no single candidate who can keep the coalition together in a meaningful way.

2. McCain on the whole comes the closest to representing the establishment party line while maintaining a semblance of intellectual honesty. As a result, he can keep fiscal and neo-conservatives in the fold while maintaining a respectable (though not great) showing amongst the libertarian vote. However, while he has a pretty consistent record on socially conservative issues, evangelical conservatives do not trust him. Combine that with their current feeling of being taken for granted by the GOP and a McCain-led ticket would have problems keeping the evangelical vote without a significant gesture to show them that they are not taken for granted. A Huckabee VP candidacy would be that gesture. While this ticket would annoy the hell out of the GOP establishment types, their loyalty is primarily to the party rather than a truly identifiable ideology. They would have no choice but to support the ticket since voting for another party is simply not an option to people whose entire raison d'etre in politics is to support the GOP.

I should add that my previous posts on this subject have largely ignored the remote possibility of a Thompson nomination. In some ways, Thompson would be the one candidate who could in fact unite the party without appearing like a "Romney Republican." His only problem would probably be that he just doesn't inspire much passion in any of the core interest groups. But he also isn't offensive to really any of the GOP interest groups, either. If Thompson could somehow stage an upset of unbelievable proportions, he probably could keep the coalition together in a meaningful way. He would get destroyed on the turnout front on Election Day in November, but that's not really the point of this discussion.