The ghost of Howard Dean haunts the pundit class. As soon as a candidate of either party spikes up in the polls, he is compared with Dean, who had a spectacular boomlet in the second half of 2003 only to deflate as soon as people began to vote in early 2004.
After many false prophecies, Dean circa 2008 has finally arrived. He is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Not because he will inevitably blow himself up in Iowa. But because, like Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.
Like Dean, Huckabee is an under-vetted former governor who is manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States. Like Dean, he is rising toward the top of polls in a crowded field based on his appeal to a particular niche of his party. As with Dean, his vulnerabilities in a general election are so screamingly obvious that it’s hard to believe that primary voters, once they focus seriously on their choice, will nominate him.
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It is difficult to find any significant weakness in Romney. He is refreshingly articulate, exceedingly well prepared and self-disciplined, clearly an excellent manager with both private and government experience, happily married with a large, supportive family, and well within the mainstream of conservatism on every major issue. His nomination would not divide the base.
He is just the sort of candidate people complain that they never get.
Meanwhile Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff is charting scenarios that have Romney winning the GOP nomination even after losing Iowa and seeing John McCain endorse Rudy.
The most important date on the political calender now is Romney’s sit-down with Russert on Sunday’s MTP. I can’t imagine Tim is going to go in for much Mormon theology, which could yield an interview that lives in infamy, but he will be primed with YouTube videos from ’94 and ’02. It will be an excellent test of Romney’s readiness for the coming MSM onslaught, one that Rudy passed last week. It is a wonderful thing to be a Republican and look forward to such television dates.
After Sunday the campaigns will struggle to grab some attention from the voters, but with almost no hope of success beyond the chattering classes fleeting and obligatory reports. If Lowry is right, the Huckabee ship is taking on lots of water. If Charon is right, Romney has begun rising again. If Mirengoff is right, the GOP race provides fodder for pundits through early March. If I’m right, we’d all rather have some egg-nog.