Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Elite support v. Base Support

Marc Ambinger has an interesting, but I think wrong, analysis of the GOP establishment pushback against Mike Huckabee, here is the nut of it:

Huck = Harriett Miers?

A conservative counter-revolution is breaking out in the talk radio universe and on prominent conservative blogs.

The same forces that joined to force the White House to withdraw Harriett Miers' Supreme Court nomination, a tender by the president that was as explicitly grounded in Miers' identity as a born again evangelical as Huckabee's presidential campaign surge is based on his choice of career and religious affiliation.

I don't think this is a good analogy. As I see it, the Huckabee pushback and the soon to be expected counter-push is part of a good free for all factional fight as to who will be the Republican chump in the coalition. Huckabee's supporters feel that they have disproportionally been the chump compared to other major elements of the GOP coalition; suburbanites, anxious upper management and foreign policy hawks, nationalists and maximalists.

Huckabee has a real, motivated and distributed network of fairly resilient support. He has been the beneficiary of this support because he is seen as credible with this group. His passive aggressive Merry Christmas ad is the most recent example as well as he previous statements indicating that he would quarantine AIDS patients and equating homosexuality with necrophilia. He's one of them.

The Evanglical movement is an organized network that has a good idea of how to wield political power by acts of ommission and commission. This is a coalition that has been pragmatic in withholding support until it could be a primary driver behind a single candidate and to threaten to withhold support unless fealty is pledged during the general election.

Harriet Miers never had base support for her nomination. Instead she had a single pillar of support, and it was fairly weak support in a multi-iteration/stage game of approval. All she really had was a long standing relationship with President Bush, and nothing else. Her identity stands were not deemed credible indicators of future behavior by any base supporters and she did not have any significant Senate champions.

As soon as part of the Republican base coalition started to raise its hackles in opposition to Miers, there was no pushback. There were no highly invested stakeholders who wanted to see Miers succeed besides a weakened President. Marginal members of the confirmation coalition were getting flooded with communication against confirmation and absolutely no counter-weight. The cost-benefit analysis was clear --- support would be costly, while non-support would be rewarded. Indifferent or mildly supportive Senators bent to the pressure that they were seeing and did not advocate or fight for Miers.

Huckabee has a firm base of support that is willing to fight for what it perceives to be its principles and principals. Miers did not. This is a key difference in the analogy, not the sources of opposition.

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