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Larry Sabato looks at the primaries, and thinks Mike Huckabee’s foriegn policy sounds like a Hillary and Obama debate

Monday, December 17, 2007
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HH: Joined now by Professor Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia. He’s got a brand new book out, A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals To Revitalize Our Constitution And Make America A Fair Country, doing quite well as well, Larry. Welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

LS: Hey, thank you, Hugh, appreciate that.

HH: I’m glad that the country’s actually interested in Con Law, and my hat is off to you for making it so, and more so.

LS: Well, I appreciate that very much. I’m trying to stir the pot, and as I always tell people, in order to educate, you must provoke. I don’t even agree with all the ideas I presented, but I’m trying to get some controversy stirred, and that’s what I’ve done.

HH: Which one do you think has got the most likelihood of making its way to a convention, or even into an amendment form, that comes through the Congress?

LS: Hugh, I would love to think that it’s going to be the proposal about the primary schedule, because we are facing the most ridiculous, front-loaded primary schedule, as you well know. Here we are, a week ahead of Christmas Eve, and I’m sure you’re doing the same thing I’m doing, which is politics all day long.

HH: Yup.

LS: This is not the right season, and it’s because of, frankly, Iowa and New Hampshire. They insist on being first. I have nothing against them, but you know, the other 48 states could do a fine job, too.

HH: I’m very grumpy, because normally, we take a lot of these last two weeks off the radio, because no one keeps ratings books and that sort of stuff. But not this year.

LS: No, it’s the same for all of us. Literally, Iowa and New Hampshire are the Grinches that stole Christmas, and I’m furious at them, and so are a lot of people. And I’ve got a proposal in A More Perfect Constitution to have a rational system of nomination that is fair to everybody, and that cuts the campaign almost in half…hurray.

HH: Yeah, Amen. Now let’s get to the campaign itself, Larry. Today’s big news comes out of New Hampshire, where Joe Lieberman said this about John McCain, cut number 10:

JL: When it comes to leading America to victory, against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, there’s no one better prepared than John McCain.

HH: Now Larry Sabato, obviously, that’s aimed at the independents who can vote either on the Republican or the Democratic primary. Does it bring enough of the independents into the Republican game to save John McCain?

LS: I doubt it. I think it will help him somewhat. Look, I’ll admit, I’ve written off John McCain not since the summer, but starting two years ago.

HH: You and me, both.

LS: I think he has too many enemies in the Republican Party. There are too many issues, from immigration to taxes to campaign finance reform, where he’s alienated the party base. And look, you can’t diss your party base over and over and over again, and expect to get nominated. So no, I don’t think it’s going to make the difference. Look, suppose it gets him the New Hampshire primary. Hey, in 2000, he won the New Hampshire primary by 19 percentage points, and he still lost overwhelmingly.

HH: Yup. I agree with that 100%. Let’s then turn to the flavor of the month, Rasmussen reporting tonight that the Huckaboom is over in South Carolina. He dropped from a seven point lead back to tied in one week with Mitt Romney. And some excerpts of his speech in his Foreign Affairs article are out. Let me play them for you. Cut number one of Mike Huckabee:

MH: To say that American foreign policy needs a change in tone or attitude, or an opening up and reaching out is as obvious as saying that OJ Simpson might have had a bad month. This administration’s bunker mentality has been counterproductive, both at home and abroad.

HH: And then cut number two:

MH: We haven’t had diplomatic relationships with Iran in almost thirty years, most of my entire adult life. And a lot of good it’s done. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent, or a sibling, or even a friend, it’s impossible to resolve the differences, or to move that relationship forward. Well, the same is true for countries.

HH: Larry Sabato, this is the kind of rhetoric one expects from the left, or from Jimmy Carter. Is it going to help or hurt Mike Huckabee in a Republican primary?

MH: Oh, I would think it would hurt. You know, what I thought you were playing at first, Hugh? I thought you were playing the debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton about talking to the Iranian leader, and the Cuban leader, and the Venezuelan leader. Remember that?

HH: Yup.

MH: It sounds almost word for word to me. So no, look, I can’t imagine that if that gets out, and is really widely publicized, that it would help Huckabee after Iowa. You know, somehow, I think, Iowa may be a cake that’s almost done. But I don’t think that’s true for the other states.

HH: Now today, 79 anti-illegal immigration activists blasted Jim Gilchrist and Mike Huckabee, calling Mike Huckabee pro-amnesty. That’s the sort of thing that could hurt in Iowa, which is very, very staunchly a border security state. But when you say the cake is baked, is it because people are turning off political news now?

LS: Yes, that’s part of, that’s exactly the reason I gave earlier today. Normal people, and we’re not in the category anymore, normal people are focusing on the holidays, and I think even in Iowa, as political as they are in New Hampshire, hey, they’re moving into Christmas. They’re moving into the New Year’s celebrations. They’ll clue back in in Iowa, literally the day before the Caucuses. So I don’t know how many new messages can get out there. I would say the other thing against Huckabee that might work is this clemency argument. It’s not just the one rapist who later committed murder. It turns out that there a whole bunch of murderers that Huckabee gave clemency to during his term. And when you look at the particulars, and in fact, NBC Nightly News had a long piece tonight, a very tough piece on Huckabee just on the clemency for the murderers, I think that may be an issue that turns people once you get past Iowa.

HH: And Larry Sabato, the expectations game has obviously changed in Iowa. What does Romney have to do to get some momentum out of Iowa now? Does he still have to win it? Or does he just have to be close?

LS: Well, that’s a good question, because we are on that roller coaster, and the expectations game has totally changed. Now, the expectation is that Huckabee will not only win Iowa, he will win it by a wide margin. Well, suppose these negative ads that Romney is using on Huckabee on not just immigration, but also the criminal justice issue, suppose that closes the gap, and Huckabee wins by five or six points instead of 10 or 15? Well, there you go. I think Romney could use that for New Hampshire. He’s maintained his lead there. It might enable him to reduce any kind of Huckabee bounce into New Hampshire.

HH: Last question, are you betting the house, if you had to bet the house, on Hillary or Obama being the nominee, Larry Sabato?

LS: Oh, I don’t bet. I am not a betting man, and particularly not this year. Honestly, I can’t remember two races for president this muddy, can you?

HH: Nope, nope. It hasn’t been in a long time, which is why we’re working this week. Larry Sabato, always a pleasure, A More Perfect Constitution is his new book available at Amazon.com. Look forward to talking to you a lot, Larry in the year ahead.

End of interview.

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