Is Mike Huckabee "the bastard child of Lou Dobbs and Pat Robertson," as LA Times and National Review stalwart Jonah Goldberg contends? Such rhetoric indicates that, to the conservative establishment, Huckabee as GOP presidential contender is the sum of all fears.
In 2000 George W. Bush flashed his evangelical beliefs at times but was not seen as obnoxious because of his own establishment blood lines and his difficulty in articulating what he believes. Huckabee is a talking Bush from - gasp! - Hope, Arkansas.
How do the non-evangelical components of the Republican coalition disdain him? Let me count the ways.
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is now a GOP grand dame who likes genteel religion and decrees (italics) above all, no enthusiasm. She worries that in Iowa "faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary."
(I haven't gotten that sense from WORLD readers who like Mike. They're asking hard questions about Huckabee's views and his understanding of foreign policy. But they relish his ability to apply the injunction from Peter's first epistle: always be prepared to defend biblical understanding, yet do so with gentleness.)
Washington Post columnist George Will represents GOP traditionalists. He scorns Huckabee's ''incoherent populism'' and says Huckabee's candidacy ''rests on serial non sequiturs: I am a Christian, therefore I am a conservative, therefore whatever I have done or propose to do with 'compassionate,' meaning enlarged, government, is conservatism.''
(There it is again, the equation of compassionate conservatism with enlarged government. But Will should understand how a theory designed to promote civil society, and in that way help people work together in non-governmental ways, can be hijacked by Washingtonians who hate relinquishing power.)
The Club of Growth, representing economics-emphasizing Republicans, is running commercials attacking Huckabee for having Arkansas taxes increase on his watch. Club spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik called Huckabee ''a serial tax hiker and a big-government big spender.'' (Huckabee defenders say, accurately, that the Arkansas Supreme Court mandated four-fifths of the increase.)
Well, you get the picture. Huckabee has increasingly intense support from a Republican minority and increasingly intense opposition from those representing fragments that together probably make up a majority. He's come a long way; now comes the hardest task.