The GOP Conundrum

ImageAs I head back to Georgia after several days in Washington, I’ve got a few more thoughts on the FRC Action Washington Briefing.

First, John McCain is on his last leg after this. John McCain has been more of a pro-life, pro-family politician than any of the other guys running, save Huckabee. And he lost to Rudy Giuliani in the straw poll. McCain is respected by these people, but they have rejected his candidacy. If McCain can’t get the values voters and he can’t get the business voters, he really doesn’t have much left.

Second, I’m told that people in the room tabulating the votes were stunned by Huckabee’s showing. Stunned, for some of them, is an understatement. It seems clear to me that this was an opportunity for the leaders of the social conservative movement to sigh, shrug, and embrace Romney. They intended to.

They gave Romney a platform by himself on Friday night. They played heroic anthems for his entry and departure. He had the night all to himself. And he did well. Then Huckabee showed up the next day, sharing the same time cluster as Rudy. And Huckabee, with a speech he wrote himself, was magnificent.

Now, you can call me partisan or biased or whatever you want, but all I’m doing here is reporting. The leaders of the social conservative movement who were present, the Arlington Group members you hear so much about, were ready and willing to get on board Romney’s campaign on Saturday morning. Then Huckabee spoke. Then the straw vote was tabulated. Then they realized that were they to do so, it would put them completely out of step with their members.

The social conservatives do not want to rally around Huckabee because he is as distasteful to fiscalcons as Rudy is to socons. Even Tony Perkins, the head of FRC, said he hoped the social conservative candidate would be palatable to the fiscal conservatives out there. Huckabee is not.

And here we arrive at the conundrum for the GOP and the Press. While the media has been filled with stories about the socons ready to bolt from the GOP if Rudy is the nominee, the real story and the untold story is that the business community is even more ready to bolt from the GOP. For the last eight years they’ve watched as the socons have scored every significant win on the right — stem cells, judges, etc. Only against Labor have the fiscal guys scored wins. But there have been no budget cuts, no culling of pork, steel subsidies, etc.

The fiscal guys see the writing on the wall. They see Hillary’s position. And they are just about ready to cut a deal. And then you have the Republican libertarians who are just about ready to really vote for Ron Paul, doing to the GOP in 2008 what Ralph Nader voters did for the Democrats in 2000.

Huckabee breaks the coalition more than Giuliani because the socons fear Hillary more than the fiscalcons do. And that is why we won’t see too many of the socon leaders rallying to the clear favorite of the socon base.

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Erick Erickson

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