(On a side note, we now have 12 people demanding Mike Huckabee come to Pullman (see box above.) Let's see if we get 10 or 20 more signatures in the next few days. Governor Huckabee will be over in Bellevue in three weeks. Maybe we can convince him to swing over to the wheatfields!)
Demolition derby's loser could actually win the race
So-called values voters, also known as members of the Christian right, are telling their purported leaders something about the candidates who have come calling: They like Mike Huckabee better than the leaders do.
It shouldn't be a surprise. Huckabee is not only the most genuine member of the faction whose votes Republican presidential candidates are desperately seeking, but he is the most genuine descendant of Ronald Reagan's campaign style. He is a genial conservative, displaying a sunny disposition while one-time liberals like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani act as if it is their duty to dispense fire and brimstone.
The former Arkansas governor - who says he is a conservative, but adds, "I'm just not angry about it" - is reported to have come in second behind Romney in the straw poll at Saturday's Values Voters Summit. But it's not that simple. Romney received 1,585 votes to Huckabee's 1,555, but those totals include votes cast online as well as those at the summit itself.
Among those who saw the various candidates in person, Huckabee drew support from 50 percent. Romney was endorsed by only 10 percent.
Why? It could be Huckabee's reminder to the crowd that he spoke "not as one who comes to you, but as one who comes from you."
It could also be resentment toward those movement leaders who have ignored Huckabee in favor of candidates who appear more electable because they have more money and higher rankings in national polls.
It also could be Huckabee's own appeal to the crowd: "Let us not sacrifice our principles for anybody's politics."
In terms of politics, though, Republicans could do worse than choose Huckabee, and probably will.
While Romney, Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain paint themselves as more authoritarian than their rivals - an impression each would certainly work to soften after receiving the nomination - Huckabee is the same likable guy today that he will be during the general election campaign.
All GOP candidates met for another debate Sunday night, and there was Huckabee distinguishing himself by refusing to denounce his opponents as less righteous than he. As the others attacked each other's conservative credentials, Huckabee said Americans are "looking for a presidential candidate who's not so interested in a demolition derby against the other people in his own party."
If that were true, Huckabee would be the nominee. But it probably isn't.
The reason politicians continue to resort to attacks on their opponents is that attacks work. But for now, it's nice to see one candidate in the race exemplify the surest legacy of Reagan, smiling optimism.