Huckabee, the Southern Bell Tolls for Thee...

By Al Giordano

I haven’t seen anybody ring the obvious bell on yesterday’s “straw poll” results at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference, but the key word there is Southern, and (the Southern Belle?) tolls for thee, Mike Huckabee.

Members of the RSLC are primarily from the South, and even in the case of candidates busing in their supporters to stack the poll, most of those folks had to come from either the South or from Texas to go cast a ballot in Louisiana.

Rewind two years to the February 9, 2008 primary in the Bayou State and Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won 43 percent of the vote to 41 percent for John McCain. Mitt Romney garnered 6 percent and Ron Paul got 5 percent.

Huckabee also won Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas in ’08, so for him to come in fifth place in this straw poll that took place among party activists in what should be his geographical base territory is nothing short of devastating for his 2012 presidential prospects. It probably also indicates that he's not working that hard for it, which would firm up speculation that he doesn't plan on running anyway.

I had speculated here a few days ago here some reasons why Huckabee would be unlikely to become a candidate, and yesterday’s results increase that likelihood, leaving Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich to duke it out to be the Christian Right’s standard bearer in the Anybody-but-Mitt primaries and caucuses.

Additionally, scratch the surface of the first round results (where Romney edged out US Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, by one vote to win the straw poll) and there are two candidates that significantly advanced their causes yesterday: Romney and Gingrich.

The deep south is the toughest region for Romney (for the Evangelical bias against Mormons that we discussed earlier this week) and so he astro-turfed an “Evangelicals for Mitt” group to carry his water for him at the RSLC convention while skipping out on it himself to avoid any YouTube moments of getting booed or otherwise embarrassed. That Romney is this well organized in his weakest region two years out signals that, A. He’s running a fifty state strategy, and, B. Money can buy you love.

I still believe Romney has little to no chance of winning the nomination because the anti-Mitt vote will coalesce behind the last surviving alternative to defeat him.

What Gingrich showed yesterday was that he can go toe to toe with Palin in the sub-primary to be that candidate. And if Huckabee doesn’t run, Gingrich becomes heir apparent to be the Southern candidate in the contest, which gives him a Super Tuesday February 2012 shot to knock Palin out of the game altogether and spend the rest of the primaries as the Anti-Mitt.

Furthermore, this straw poll included a second choice ballot that, when combined with the first choice results, shows a first tier troika emerging between Romney, Palin and Gingrich. And that will lead to some delicious moments as they try to tear each other to pieces. (And the nasty meter a lso would rise dramatically without Huckabee - the archetypal middle child always ready to play the Rodney King "can't we all get along?" role - on the debate stage.)

Follow my reasoning on this, and then I’ll add some chatter about Ron Paul and Rick Perry, among others.

Here were the first round results of the straw poll:

Initial Choice(If the primary election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?)

Mitt Romney (439) 24 percent

Ron Paul (438)
24 percent

Sarah Palin (330) 18 percent

Newt Gingrich (321)
18 percent

Mike Huckabee (80)
4 percent

Tim Pawlenty (54) 3 percent

Mike Pence  (58)
3 percent

Rick Santorum (41) 2 percent

Gary Johnson (3) 1 percent

Come on! Four percent, Mike? So, not only is Huckabee plunging down into the second tier quicksand, but Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty can’t get out of it: two wooly mammoths in the tar pit, sloshing around with Indiana US Rep. Mike Pence, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. (And if South Dakota Sen. John Thune, or former RNC chair Haley Barbour jump in, they, too, will start from the tar pit and have to navigate their way up to the first tier due to lack of name recognition.)

But now look at the second choices of the Southern party faithful:

Second Choice
(Who would be your second choice in the Republican Primary Election for president?)

Newt Gingrich (339) 20 percent 

Sarah Palin (332)
20 percent

Mitt Romney (242)
14 percent

Mike Huckabee (178)
11 percent

Mike Pence (141)
8 percent

Rick Santorum (125) 7 percent

Tim Pawlenty (114)
7 percent

Gary Johnson (104)
6 percent

Ron Paul (98)
6 percent

The second ballot is interesting on many levels, because it shows the comfort factor that Romney, Gingrich and Palin have, each, among about 38 percent of the attendees. It also shows who has room to grow, and who benefits as other candidates decline to run or stumble early on. Primary voters tend to coalesce around frontrunners with every new primary or caucus.

The sharp drop off for Ron Paul – from the stellar to the cellar – from ballot one to ballot two pretty much explains why the nomination is out of reach for him on this planet. In 2008, Paul got about five percent of the total GOP primary votes nationwide, bringing him a paltry 35 delegates to the convention. Even if he were to double that in two years it still would leave him out of the real fight.

To best analyze these second ballot results we first have to look at where the Paul voters went. About 80 were so enthusiastic for their man that they didn’t bother to cast a second ballot. Another 104 went to Johnson, the most truly libertarian of the remaining candidates (and that pretty much describes what percent – about a quarter – of Paul voters are true blue libertarians, as opposed to the hooligan yahoos they’ve thrown in with). The rest likely divided up between Pence, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Palin, probably in that order, with maybe some flat tax believers falling into the Huckabee camp. I doubt that many Paul votes, if any, went to Romney, with the man-of-the-system cologne that he exudes.

Now, let’s look at the combined percentages from the two ballots cast:

Mitt Romney (681) 20 percent

Sarah Palin (662) 19 percent

Newt Gingrich (660) 19 percent

Ron Paul (536) 16 percent

Mike Huckabee (258) 8 percent

Mike Pence (199)
6 percent

Tim Pawlenty (168) 5 percent

Rick Santorum (166) 5 percent

Gary Johnson (107) 3 percent

So there are your two tiers, plus Ron Paul off in a tier of his own.

As for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke at the conference but asked for his name to be kept off the straw ballot, I watched some of his speech and could barely sit through it. Know why? Because to every American that is not Texan, the guy sounds exactly like George W. Bush. (And as Mark Halperin noted, practically nobody even mentioned Bush during their speeches; the nightmare is still too fresh.) Sure, Perry, if he runs, will have lots of money, he’ll have all the Texas delegates (which could make him a convention kingmaker), but he will not be able to avoid reminding everyone else of Dubya, which even for Republicans that liked Bush still sounds Pavlov’s Bell as a signifier for electoral defeat. So while I’m sympathetic to the commenters here who warned not to underestimate Perry, I see his path to national traction to be very difficult because of the ghost of Bush.

If I had to pick which candidate I’d rather be in a three-way first tier between Romney, Palin and Gingrich, my money would be on Newt today. He is less likely to say something jaw-droppingly stupid than Palin, and far less likely to be perceived as flip-flopping, sterile, or ideologically weak as Romney.

The computer keeps spitting out the name Gingrich from many different scenarios that could happen in the long two years ahead. That said, you betcha that the oppo research teams of Romney and Palin are working overtime to find the perfect skeleton in Newt’s closet. But, also, Gingrich’s oppo research monkeys are likewise digging up dirt on the other two. And I ask you: which of the three is the most nasty and Machiavellian when it comes to throwing the dirt, and knowing exactly when to dish it?

Also, for Field Hands and political junkies in the New York City area, I’ve just added another event to my upcoming visit there: A gathering of NYC Kossacks and bloggers on Tuesday, April 20, 6 p.m. at Zanzibar, to the left of midtown. Should be a great free-wheeling discussion. Maybe I'll bring my bookie from the Bronx to coordinate a 2012 GOP nomination betting pool...

Update: Tom Schaller at 538 offers some similar observations over Huckabee's tanking and adds his "gut feeling that Gingrich is the GOP's 2012 sleeper candidate."




Just would like to know your thoughts on the Nuclear Summit that the MSM insists will be unsuccessful that Obama's agenda wont happen-- EVER.

Seeing all that crap articles on health care and how they kept writing about the doom and gloom on how it will never happen (and we all saw how that turned out), I just would like to get a more authentic perspective?


Mighty Mitt

Hey Guys, Here’s my take on all this. I’ve read the many comments up to this point and truly see all sides and can understand your viewpoints.

I have followed Romney for a few years now and don’t believe he personally is for abortion. I know he loves his church which by the way is called, “The Church of Jesus Christ of latter days Saints.” He loves the Bible and loves the man who walked along the shores of Galilee.

Mormons are firmly against abortion except in extreme cases where the mother may die by having the child and in cases of rape and incest. I know of unwed pregnant teens who sot the council of the Mormon Church to give birth to the baby and with the assistance of the Church adopted the babies into loving families. Thus the sin was not further added upon by the killing of a child but became an added joy into the lives of adoptive parents.

Had Romney stood against abortion when he ran for Governor we would not be having this discussion today because he would have never got elected which means he most likely would not be in the political spotlight that he’s in today. With politics like many things you very often have to work the system to get yourself in a position where you can really make a difference. I agree this may seem like Romney’s a hypocrite that can’t be trusted but how many of you ever worked for a company a boss that had standards or practices they wanted followed that didn’t necessarily conform with your own ideas or beliefs? So, you say to yourself I’ll play the game, show this company what I kind do and then work myself into a position where I can start calling the shots. Have you ever had to do that? Romney the businessman that he is I believe thought along these lines when he ran for Governor.

Romney is a proven master in getting positive results. Look what he did with the 2002 Winter Olympics. Those Olympics were ridden with bribes and corruption and on the verge of becoming a total failure. Romney was selected to take over the mess which he did and totally turned it around into becoming one of the most successful and respected games in Olympic History, which made America proud instead of shamed.

Romney knows how to streamline and make things efficient. He’s done this in business and he turned Massachusetts financial crisis into a big financial State surplus. Mitt Romney also knows the world stage better then most in that he’s worked in the International arena with his many business dealings. He has a very unique perspective on how we can make this great Country of ours strong and competitive against the likes of China and the emerging India. etc.

And lastly, Romney’s a Hawk when it comes to National Defense. He knows that the only true respect we will get from the World is to be Militarily strong which commands the respect of these thug dictators throughout the World. No Apologies from this guy, not after all the good AMERICA has done in the World.

I like Romney alot. He’s a moral man with a great family. I would hope that he would inspire this Country to get back to higher moral standards that we had several years back, before immorality, sexual perverseness and pornography had penetrated many facets of our society. I long for the day when I was a kid and you could turn on the TV and watch all channels (3 at that time) and see nothing but good decent shows and programming. Now I panic whenever I see a kid turn on a TV not to mention the unbelievable pervasive acts that are available for all to see on the internet. This, my friends, concerns me more than any Economic downturn or Terrorist threat because the soul of our Nation and the Souls of our Children are being poisoned by this evil.

May God Bless this Great Country of ours and may he Bless Mitt Romney….

The 2nd place Johnson votes

Indicate what part of the Paulistas are genuine libertarians along the Gulf.  I imagine a substantially higher percentage in New England and the West, only somewhat more in the Midwest. (Mostly from impressions gained hanging with my "Stop Govt. Spying" sign outside his Rally for the Republic during the 2008 GOP Convention)


Democrat for US Senate (Wisconsin 2012)

Gingrich has MSM credibility

I'm baffled by it, but the Washington press corps seems to eat up Gingrich's nonsense.  They always speak about him reverently, just like they do of McCain.  He's always referred to as the guy with "ideas" and "a plan" and "smart", etc.  They almost never call him out on what he says.

Must be something lingering from 1994.

No matter

who captures the Republican nomination, their campaign will have to spend money IN Texas...hehehe

@Big R

Do you know if your boy Mitt Romney's empty suits are custom-made or purchased off-the-rack?


Al -I appreciate your watching Perry.  And laughingly I agree that to "every American that is not Texan" he sounds like Bush.  Of course to us there is a difference.  Always has been actually.  I knew him briefly when I was an officer of a student body organization at TX A&M and he was Student Body President......and head Yell Leader etc....   Though a Democrat at the time - he was already blessed with political "smarts".  Really more so than Bush - who needed the help of Rove and Company to make a go of it. Perry has always been his own man - not so much the puppet Bush was at times.  And I did mention in my previous post that his Texas persona could prove his worst nightmare in this upcoming election.  I am sincerely hoping you are right.  Mainly because I think in the end he would be much more difficult to defeat than Gingrich or Palin. Though he talks wingnut crazy" to appeal to certain bases - he is not really one of the true wingnuts.  Just very ambitious and shrewd. 

Still he is positioning himself for something.  If not a run in 2012 then perhaps 2016. Or is he hoping to be chosen a VP if the candidate is someone like Romney who could use some "Southern help" on the ticket?  Obviously we will see in time.  Personally I would prefer we simply defeat him this fall with White and end the speculation or at least torpedo a hole in it!  A long shot I know. But closer than many thought possible previous to this.  I and many others will work hard this summer and fall to try and make that happen.

@ Big R

Dear Big, while the spirit behind your impassioned speech in support of Mitt is duly noted, you should probably realize that there is a slim to none chance that anyone who reads this blog would ever vote for him or any other Republican.  He very might well be all that you say, and he is obviously a capable Gov, but as a liberal I have fundamental differences with most of his policy positions.

Diverse comments

Big R's comment is very welcome here. Obviously I don't agree with most of what he says (and at some future juncture I'll retell the stories from 1994 when I covered Romney's first political campaign, in Massachusetts in 1994, including the twists and turns he took on abortion related issues), but Big R wrote his opinions coherently, respectfully and gives us an opportunity to understand why he and others support Romney. That kind of insight is valuable to all of us when analyzing the GOP contest for president in 2012.

Although few will be under the impression ever that I'm going to support any of those characters, the analysis we offer here influences their contest nonetheless. Political reporters and pundits read this blog, as do party activists of all parties. Some take these ideas and run with them by linking to them. Others simply steal them, and I don't really mind because the ideas get out there.

I actually hope that as the next two years march on and we keep covering this contest, more Republicans and supporters of those candidates will comment here in the spirit that Big R has. It will give us a better understanding of the dynamics over on that end of the spectrum. It is by careful study of those dynamics that we will be able to make accurate predictions.

And, yes, if they do start commenting here, that will be novel and perhaps a little shocking to the longer term Field Hands, but I ask all to look at it as a wonderful learning experience!

Double Mittmo Romney

Big R gives a perfect illustration as to why Mittmo scares me more than any other Repub, and has for years.

Romnutz is smart, uber-rich (hey, daddy ran a Detroit auto company after all!), and good-looking, as is his whole family. Because of these attributes he automatically has about 40% of the Repub vote. Because of these attributes, he gets unlimited and almost completely uncritical news coverage. Remember the big "religion" speech he gave during the Repub primaries where every major "news" outlet gave it completely uncritical coverage, LIVE fer chrissakes, and compared it to JFK's historical speech about Catholicism? It was disgusting and horrifying to me how this guy was being compared to JFK in the American BigMedia.

Modern-day Repubs are so easily swayed by hot button issues. Logic goes out the window, hence Big R's illogical stances such as limiting abortion except in cases of rape and incest, just as Mittmo does to thread the needle. So I guess it's okay to kill fetuses sometimes then, right? Government is not suposed to be run like a business...they are like comparing apples to kumquats. So Big R, I'm assuming you like how Obama has dinner with his wife and daughters, even when visiting world leaders are in town, as he leads by example in the honesty, integrity, and morality departments, right?

Fieldhands...we'd all do well to start figuring out how to respond to Mittmo's predictable stances now, and organizing against them right now. He will be our opponent. Gar-on-teed!

While I agreed with Al's stance about a certain percentage of Repubs not willing to go with a Mormon (church of latter day saints...whatevs!) in the last election, and even so Mittmo came damn close in defeating McP.O.W., I think they'll be fine with it by 2012, considering all of Mittmo's positives in their eyes. Mittmo can gain a lot of the "centrist" vote that went to Obama last time, that is if the BigMedia continues to lie and deceive at their current rates. Plus, as we all know, the most important part of winning is Organizing, and Mittmo has never stopped that since the last election.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless America and all its noodly appendages, and may He bless President Barack Hussein Obama in his campaign against Mittmo and the Conglomerate-owned American BigMedia.

Let's kick Mittmo's privleged little holy hiney now, before it's too late.


Hi Jeanne and Al,

Thank you for your polite words regarding my comments on Mitt Romney.  You've probably guessed I'm a Mormon too.  I wasn't raised a Mormon but joined the Church as a teenage kid in Southern Ca. much to the concern of my wonderful mother.  Anyway, I wasn't aware when I submitted my letter to "The Field" that it was a Liberal Publication or Web site, I hope I didn't offend anyone.

We all see life from different perspectives.  In the mid 70's I served as a Missionary to England and as a punk kid at 19 years old I didn't have much political thinking or persuasion one way or another.  I was just excited about my Religion and wanted to share it with whoever would listen.

Being in England for two years was an interesting experience.  The people over there had a somewhat cold exterior but when you got to know them they were warm, gentle and loving people that truly cared for their follow man.  However, there was this overal gloom and depression I felt from the people and had a hard time with it and understanding it. At first I thought, well, this country is old and the winter weather is gloomy so that's depressing.  But later it hit me that the competitive vibrant spirit in America was almost non exsistant over there.  I came to relize that the people were taxed so heavily to cover all their well meaning social programs that it took the spark out of the people.

The Socialize Medical program over there on the surface was great.  You didn't need to pay for much of it including me as an American.  I had some dental work done for next to nothing, It wasn't great dental work but it was cheep.  I had a fellow missionary companion with foot problems due to the miles we walked daily.  He had his feet looked at and worked on for nearly free.  On the surface all this inexpensive medical stuff seemed great and the compassionate and right thing to do, but it was the residual effects of it that bothered me.

Shortly after I returned home to the good ole USA Margret Thatcher was put in as Prime Minister and she started to turn that Country around.  From what I gathered she was alot like Ronald Reagan and tried to get the country more into a competitive free market based society.  So, twenty years later I went back to England for a visit and took one of my kids to show him around.  Well, I couldn't believe the differnce.  I almost felt like the country had become Americanized.  There was a much more upbeat feeling all over.  The people were wearing more colorful clothes and I felt they were happier.  The cars were nicer, the homes were nicer and the people were nicer too!

Frankly it's been my expierences with England that has pointed me in a conservitive direction.  I know the Christ like thing to do is to love your neighbor and if someone ask for your Cloke give him your Coat also.  I see this type of Christ like feeling with you Liberals.  Your hearts are big and want to help the less fortunate.  I do too but I'm convienced you help more people including the less fortunate by going the free market way.

This health care plan that Obama pushed through has got me freaked out because it's going down the road of old Europe.  And again, I don't mean to offend you guys but I don't believe B.O. is pushing all these Government run programs out of the kindness of his heart to help the poor and downtrodden.  I think the Candy Man is wanting to enslave us.  From my perspective social programs start breeding into more social programs which gives those running our Government more power because we as a people become more dependant on them.

Anyway, Al said he likes contrasting view points.  I would love to find some middle ground that accomplished the truly good intentions of the Democrats coupled with best ideas from the Republicans.  That would be AWESOME.

Thanks for letting me express my viewpoints.

Big R

Gallup poll

Interesting in the latest CNN/Gallup poll, Huckabee is actually the frontrunner with a national survey:

Get the PDF, look at page 11.

All that being said, I think Al's right and it comes down to Romney vs Gingrich. Although I don't see how Gingrich is going to get much of any female support given his personal history.

Also, according to same poll, Obama leaves all of them in the dust, which is rather encouraging, given I think he's just starting to rebound from his lowest popularity point (ala Reagan).

This is fun

Thanks for letting us engage, Al.

Big R, I have a question for you.

If I told you that I didn't mean to offend you, but I honestly believe that the Mormon cult is a Satanic child-raping and woman-enslaving malevolent force bent on world domination that must be exterminated from the planet in order that humans live free, but I really look forward to working with you and I'm sure that we can find some middle ground, would you believe the last part to be sincere?

Just asking.

@ Big R

So, Big R, are you upset that Mitt Romney passed a very similar "big (albeit state) government" health care plan when he was governor?   Do you think he was playing the role of a "Candy Man" in MA?  Were his motives, as you infer are Obama's motives, to "enslave us?"  Because he did the same thing, just on the state level.  He made sure every person in MA had access to health insurance/care, and mandated that they buy it from the state health insurance exchange that is heavily regulated.

I also note that you indicated you left England, and then went back TWENTY YEARS LATER.  I remember when I visited Nigeria for the first time in the 80s, and went back after five years, then 10 years, and then most recently 2 years ago, and my goodness the houses were nicer as well.  The people were wearing better clothes too.  Hot sunglasses by Armani and Dolce & Gabanna.  I saw more commerce all around.  The streets were filled with Benzes and BMWs and other nice material things.  But I wouldn't say the government of Nigeria had/has ideologically changed too much, the issue there has always been one of corruption and instability.  Still, the people managed to get "Americanized" as well.  Perhaps you would argue that it's from the recent heavy Chinese presence in Nigeria?  And last I checked the Chinese aren't akin to Reagan and Thatcher, so I don't know what to make of that using your logic.

Anyway, I'm not prepared to attribute the obvious material upgrades in Nigeria over the past 20+ years since I've been going and interacting with that country, to any type of Ronald Reagan-inspired presence in that country.  Sometimes, technology and the passage of time interconnects us and society's become more modernized, and I'd assume after 20 years, you'd experience a similar change in almost any country which probably has less to do with one particular leader and more to do with our world becoming global and interconnected.

In my view, society's change and evolve with the times.  Right now, the world is shrinking and our country is in need of retooling itself and becoming much more efficient in order to compete globally.  Our health care system is all over the place and relying on businesses - who more and more have to compete globally - to provide people with health insurance is a drag on those companies and our economy as a whole.  That is partly why wages have stagnated and businesses are moving overseas.  That competition is also what is making a situation where less and less businesses are offering health insurance to their employees.  So, as a smart country seeing this trend heading downward, it makes sense that we start to create a system where businesses who want to give their employees health care are able to affordably, and people who are left on their own have an affordable alternative.  Those alternatives are STILL private insurance companies, so don't worry, we will still be relying on private enterprise.  So, I suppose by your logic, that means we're going to be dependent on private insurance as opposed to the "big bad government."  Pick your poison.  In this instance, I'd go with the government over private companies when it comes to paying my doctor's bill.

Two Way Street

The thing about having an open dialgoue and finding middle ground is that both sides have to contribute something to it. So yes, Fieldhands need to not immediately jump on the rare conservative commentator- but then, that conservative commentator needs to not state that a long-term liberal goal that many Fieldhands gave their all for is really just the opening salvo in "enslaving us".


It's about respecting each other, and assuming bad motives based on no evidence isn't that.

Mitch Daniels

I'm thinking we're going to see someone come from virtually nowhere (no offense meant to any Hoosiers) and see Mitch Daniels make a run for it if he thinks he has a legitimate chance.  Otherwise, it will be someone completely ego-driven (Romney) or sacrificial (I'm not sure who).  I don't think Palin's going to run; she's just playing with supporters to keep the money flowing.

Of course he's welcome to stay

If he sticks around, he might even...

(glances around conspiratorially) 

...learn the secrets of community organizing.

He just needs to bring better material.

Pataki Makes A Move

Today, George Pataki threw some red meat to the Republican base.  He could be a real contender, but he has to get past the rabid teabaggers first.  He was able to govern New York well, with an often hostile legislature.  Plus he comes across as a laid back, pleasant guy.  If the Republicans would let a Kemp/Rockefeller through the primaries, Obama could have a real challenge.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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