The University of Virginia political scientist and analyst Larry Sabato was my guest yesterday. The transcript of the interview is here. Excerpts:
HH: 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?
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.