The talking points have been circulating for days from rival Republican presidential camps – even if Huckabee wins, he’s little more than Pat Robertson was in 1988… an evangelical flash in the pan.
Wrong and right.
Right first – he’s like Robertson because he is mobilizing a whole new group of evangelical voters. When Robertson ran – and lost – in Iowa in 1988, hundreds of thousands of evangelicals registered to vote for the first time. Nationwide more than a million evangelicals signed up to vote. While Robertson lost, that mailing list of names would become the foundation for the Christian Coalition – the most powerful political organization in America in the 1990s.
Huckabee is doing a bit of that. Evangelicals who have been notably lethargic this campaign season are turning out in droves for the former governor. And guess what, there are lots and lots and lots of evangelicals in America… even in New Hampshire.
Now for all the ways this theory is wrong:
– Pat Robertson was a televangelist who wanted to be a politician. He chose to get started on the grandest stage of all – the pursuit of the presidency.
– Mike Huckabee is a former pastor who was governor of Arkansas for 10 years. This run for the White House isn’t a flight of fancy – it is a real campaign.
– Pat Robertson didn’t have mass appeal. He scared people. He didn’t seem all there. No on is saying that about Mike Huckabee. Did you see him on Leno? Did you watch his speech tonight? This is a calm and resolute man who sniffs of authenticity, humility, and confidence. He is not Pat Robertson.
– Neither Romney nor Giuliani are VP Bush. Robertson didn’t win the nomination just because he was a televangelist. He didn’t win because Bush beat him. Huckabee isn’t facing VP Bush. Though widely derided as a wimp, Bush was a resourceful and affable politician who also happened to have the weight of the Reagan presidency behind him. Romney and Giuliani both suffer from a fatal political problem – the more people see them and listen to them the more they dislike them. If Robertson were running today maybe he would have won.
-In 1988 Pat Robertson said democracy in South Africa would hurt whites, said he’d been in combat in the Korean War (when he hadn’t), and believed that only devout Christians or Jews should serve in the military.