Casting Stones

Even after Mike Huckabee won the Values Voter Summit’s on-site straw poll last weekend in a landslide–Mitt Romney beat him by a hair in the corresponding online poll–the Christian Right’s top leaders have refused to galvanize behind him. Has a gulf emerged between the Christian Right leadership and the evangelical rank-and-file?

Readers of my Crunchy Con blog know that I have little use for the GOP field this year, but I gotta say the more I see Mike Huckabee, the more I like and admire him. An Obama-Huckabee race in 2008 would probably be as inspiring as a Clinton-Giuliani race would be depressing. I love the way Huckabee came into the Values Voter hootenanny this past weekend and won the audience over with nothing more powerful than his oratory. Marvelous.
Over on RedState, Erick Erickson, who was at the event, points out that Huckabee showed up the leadership of the Religious Right, which really wants to settle on a candidate. Erick makes some solid points about the fracturing of the conservative coalition; I think one of the biggest stories now underway is about how the Religious Right’s traditional machers are losing their power. They can’t control the direction of the GOP nationally, and now it looks like they can’t even control their own rank-and-file.
Though I anticipate a Huckabee-Jindal ticket in 2012, let the reader understand: if Chuck Norris be for Huck, who can be agin’ him?

Walking the halls at the Washington Values Voter Summit, I ran into Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a Washington-based Christian Right activist, who revealed that he had sat down with DNC chair Howard Dean last week. Mahoney, a longtime DC fixture whose advocacy and gift for offering priceless quotes often lands him in the news, says Dean is the first DNC chair he’s ever sat down with and that he found him “quite warm, quite nice.” This comes a few weeks after reports circulated that Dean had met with Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land, which marked Land’s first meeting with a DNC chair.
Noting that he has not met with the RNC anytime recent in memory–and that he didn’t think the RNC would grant a request to do so–Mahoney called Dean “100 percent committed to having a dialogue. Is that because of politics or because he honestly believes the political tone has gotten too harsh? It’s probably 50-50.”
“I feel the Republican Party sometimes takes the faith and values community for granted,” Mahoney added.
Would anyone have guessed that the liberal, secular Dean would become the first DNC chair to meet face-to-face with the leading lights of evangelical politics? I’m gonna keep an ear open for disclosures of more Dean-Christian Right powwows. I think I just saw Dr. James Dobson walk by…

One of the biggest faith-and-politics mysteries has been why religious conservatives haven’t rallied around Huckabee. He was told they were waiting for him to get “traction” and he said, hey you guys ARE my traction. And it’s true: if they really rallied around him in a forceful unified way, he would become a tier 1 candidate. If it’s that they dont want to focus their energy on a long shot, why did they say they’d support a third party candidate — the ultimate long shot?
So why hasnt it happened? My colleague Dan Gilgoff (a.k.a. God-o-meter’s channeller) theorizes that if they do a third party, then people will view it as a symbolic effort and if he/she doesnt do well, no one will count it as a sign of religious conservative impotence. But if they rally around huckaby and lose, they’ll be seen as a spent force.
Seems like a good theory to me. What do the rest of you think?

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