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National Review’s Jim Geraghty on Care Bear Mike Huckabee and the rest of the GOP presidential field.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
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HH: Joined now by Geraghty the Indispensable. He is a campaign reporter with few parallels, equals, whatever you want to call it. He blogs over at Nationalreview.com. Hit the blog row, and then go to Campaign Spot. James, always a pleasure, thanks for joining us.

JG: Hugh, Happy Thanksgiving.

HH: And to you. Make sure you have a bit of bird for me. Now I want to bring up this polling controversy about Romney. Last week when it came out, I said it’s going to be a left wing 527 that wants to take Romney off the board. And I thought that was perhaps the only persuasive thing out there. Other people wanted to finger other Republican campaigns, but I just think it’s someone getting Soros money, because it’s expensive to do. Where are you now on the most likely suspects?

JG: Very much in that neighborhood. And one of the things that I talked to a, you know, well connected consultant to, very familiar with these circumstances today, and he pointed out that the types of questions that allegedly this push poll asked, about Romney getting deferments when he was doing his missionary work, and his sons not serving in the military, and the history of race relations in the Mormon Church, those are not arguments against Romney. They would be easy to deploy in a Republican primary. They don’t really seem like the kind of arguments that you’d necessarily drop in the last couple of minutes and expect to see Republican voters shifting in great numbers. It does, however, I mean, we know the chicken hawk is a thing that the lefties repeated as if they had Tourettes Syndrome, where it just blurts out every couple of minutes.

HH: Right.

JG: So it’s the sort of thing they would find very persuasive. And playing…you know, look, if this is something in a general election, you could see them playing the race card against Romney up against the Democrats. So that’s got me thinking this. The other thing is there’s something a little bit amateurish about this whole thing. There’s just something about it. Like I said, it’s not just that there was a theme to these questions, it seemed like they were kind of, the variety of topics covered seemed like they were just kind of, it’s like you’re cooking spaghetti, you throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

HH: Yup.

JG: So I kind of get the feeling, not just is it a Soros type…it might be a Soros type who hasn’t been in politics very much.

HH: And of course, we cannot rule out our friends from the Ron Paul campaign, who are also used to doing, well, things that strike us as out of the ordinary.

JG: Yeah. In other words, this just does not seem like a veteran political operative who’s been in the game a long time.

HH: Now on the other hand, Justin Hart from My Man Mitt reports that Western Wats sources confirmed to him that the people that placed the order are a cut-out. They’re not the ultimate client. It’s another non-political client. And so someone sophisticated enough to put a couple of firewalls up, Jim.

JG: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those things…well, I guess I had kind of wondered the clumsiness of it, because here’s the other thing. They’re doing this in Iowa and New Hampshire. The only people who are still answering their phone in Iowa and New Hampshire at this point, the most polled election cycle in American history, are almost certainly people who are eager to answer the phone to talk to a pollster, to tell them how much they love their guy.

HH: Yeah.

JG: In other words, as soon as you put this push polling effort into effect, you know sooner or later it’s going to get out.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

JG: So to me, I guess there’s something very odd about this whole thing. The only…whoever did this had no intention of ever working in Republican politics again.

HH: (laughing) Well put. Or of being found out.

JG: So to me, that points to the other side of the aisle. I think that if it were any other campaign…

HH: It also points to…or perhaps fanatical anti-Mormon.

JG: Yeah, I mean, there’s just too much risk, too little upside for anybody else…

HH: No. Now let’s talk a little bit about the immigration issue, which Romney is pounding both Giuliani and Huckabee on today. And if you read the immigration story in the Wall Street Journal on saliency, it’s a hugely salient issue in the electorate, generally, and very much more so in the Republicans than the Democrats, but significantly so in the Democrats. Has Romney got a winning card here that both Giuliani and Huckabee are struggling with?

JG: Well, I don’t think any of these guys has…neither one of these guys is a Tom Tancredo or Duncan Hunter. So if Rudy is going after Romney on this wouldn’t make much sense, Huckabee going after Romney would be the most insane thing this side of the Ron Paul campaign. So the only guy who might have a semi-solid record is Fred Thompson, who, you know, I expect to see him campaigning on the side of a milk carton pretty soon.

HH: Yup.

JG: So it’s a little like none of these guys has an absolutely perfect record on this issue. I think it’s fairly certain that whoever the Republican nominee is, if they get elected, securing the border is going to be a top priority for them. The electorate is focused on this.

HH: Now Romney was hitting Huckabee on the tuition, in-state tuition for illegal aliens proposal that Huckabee was behind. I do think that has teeth.

JG: You know, Huckabee is a…there’s something Care Bearish about him. He’s big and soft, and wants government to reach out to everybody. Anything that reeks of punitivism regarding illegal immigrants, it just seems too harsh for his tastes. And I believe in a big tent, and I believe in a party that’s got a lot of different views in it, but that’s just not where the mood of the GOP is right now.

HH: Care Bear Mike. Have you written that up yet at The Campaign Spot?

JG: I have not. Somebody else used Care Bear in another context there. But basically it said, you know, the argument that good feelings will solve anything.

HH: Well, I like that, Care Bear Mike. Now do you think he’s going to hold on? He’s had a nice little run in Iowa. He’s within a couple of points, maybe statistically tied in one poll with Romney there. But of course, that’s really about showing up on the night of January 3rd. It requires a lot of bodies and a lot of organization. Do you think he really does have a chance there?

JG: Not really. I will…was very briefly very enthused about Huckabee, probably around the time of the Iowa Straw Poll. But each successive month I’ve kind of downgraded him another notch. I think the thing first and foremost, and probably the best example of this, is this hilariously funny ad he’s debuting that has him and Chuck Norris.

HH: Right.

JG: And you know, maybe one of the funniest ads we’ve seen. But at the end of it, you kind of wonder is Mike Huckabee really presidential?

HH: And the answer is no.

JG: Yeah, he’s hilarious, he’s extremely charismatic, maybe one of the most effective communicators in the party. But just do you see him as a Commander-In-Chief? If we were in a 1992 style electorate, where we felt like we were at peace, and you know, we were going to be focusing on domestic issues, well, maybe he’d be the right guy. I just don’t think he’s got the right issue set for a 2008 world.

HH: Do you think he’s presidential?

JG: Not at this point.

HH: And who do you think is going to be the nominee at this point. I ask you this every week, and you’ve had two thus far. So it’s the third week. Time to try again.

JG: Oh, yeah. So for this week, I’m going to go with the possibility that nobody catches up to Rudy. My plan is to keep rotating, Hugh, until finally I’m trying to give you the case that Ron Paul’s going to be the nominee.

HH: Okay, but you’re calling it for Rudy this week?

JG: Yeah.

HH: All right. Geraghty the Indispensable, weather vane that he is, nevertheless has insights very few others do. He’ll be back next week.

End of interview.

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