The left-of-left Frank Rich comes out big for Mike Huckabee in yesterday’s New York Times. Rich, who has always had as his focus the best interests of the GOP writes about Huck’s rise:
What really may be going on here is a mirror image of the phenomenon that has upended Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability” among Democrats. Like Senator Obama, Mr. Huckabee is the youngest in his party’s field. (At 52, he’s also younger than every Democratic contender except Mr. Obama, who is 46.) Both men have a history of speaking across party and racial lines. Both men possess that rarest of commodities in American public life: wit. Most important, both men aspire (not always successfully) to avoid the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton-Bush era.
Mr. Huckabee’s humane stand wasn’t an election-year flip-flop. As governor, he decried a bill denying health services to illegal immigrants as “race-baiting” even though its legislator sponsor was a fellow Baptist preacher. Mr. Huckabee’s record on race in general (and in attracting African-American votes) is dramatically at odds with much of his party. Only last year Republicans brought us both “macaca” and a television ad portraying the black Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr., as a potential despoiler of white women.
Unlike Rudy-Romney, Mr. Huckabee showed up for the PBS presidential debate held at the historically black Morgan State University in September. Afterward, he met Cornel West, an Obama supporter who deeply disagrees with Mr. Huckabee about abortion and much else. I asked Dr. West for his take last week. After effusively praising Mr. Huckabee as unique among the G.O.P. contenders, Dr. West said: “I told him, ‘You are for real.’ Black voters in Arkansas aren’t stupid. They know he’s sincere about fighting racism and poverty.”
The real reason for Mr. Huckabee’s ascendance may be that his message is simply more uplifting -and, in the ethical rather than theological sense, more Christian -than that of rivals whose main calling cards of fear, torture and nativism have become more strident with every debate. The fresh-faced politics of joy may be trumping the five-o’clock-shadow of Nixonian gloom and paranoia favored by the entire G.O.P. field with the sometime exception of John McCain.
While praising Huck, Rich sideswipes Giuliani and Romney, telling us….