If Sarah Palin’s sudden resignation reflected a decision to run for the Presidency — and not some new scandal about to erupt — it means the critical figure in the Republican party now is Mike Huckabee.
Palin is armored in Christian teflon. Many of her supporters view her not just a victim of persecution for being conservative but for being “Christian.” She is therefore nearly impervious to attack because any piece of information that emerges from the mainstream media or the blogosphere will increase her Christian martyrdom. The more she’s attacked, the stronger she becomes.
Despite her problems, she’d still be a formidable candidate for the Republican nomination because she’s beloved by religious conservatives, in large part because of her decision not to abort Trig. Religious conservatives are an even bigger part of the Republican primary electorate than ever.(38.5% of McCain’s vote came from evangelicals compared to 36% of Bush’s).
She can only be taken down by a conservative with good standing in the evangelical community. Mark Sanford had a shot, but he’s busy reminiscing about the tan lines on his Argentinian Bathsheba. As a Mormon, Mitt Romney will never be taken seriously among the majority of evangelicals. Given his own infidelities, I’m doubtful Newt Gingrich can win over the evangelical audience.
That leaves Huckabee. As a former Baptist minister himself, he has standing to criticize Palin without being cast as anti-Christian. Mainstream media mistakenly assume that Huckabee failed last time because his base was too limited to religious conservatives. Actually, he fared no better among Christians than McCain and Romney early on. He was distrusted by many in the party for being too liberal, not for being too conservative.
But he’s spent the last year buffing his conservative credentials, including hosting his own show on Fox News Channel (the First Republican Primary). His amiable style enables him to attack without seeming mean.
It leaves us with two questions: has Huckabee sufficiently strengthened himself with the religious wing, and does he have the chutzpa (as they say in the evangelical community) to go after Palin?
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