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December 21, 2007

Bringing A Water Pistol To A Firefight

The title has the most apt analogy, because while going after Rush Limbaugh makes sense for the Democratic presidential candidates, "bringing a knife to a gunfight" doesn't begin to describe the foolishness of a Republican candidate trying the same strategy. Rush, who has tried to remain studiously non-committal in the primaries, let loose a barrage of criticism of Mike Huckabee after an unnamed source harshly criticized the talk-show giant (via Hot Air):

RUSH: Yeah, that’s why I haven’t endorsed anybody. I’m waiting. I don’t know how else I can do it. I realize that there are a lot of you out there: You got a candidate, and you think that if I got behind your candidate it would put ‘em over the top, and you might be right. But, at this point, it’s just an age-old belief that I have, and I remain true to my beliefs and principles. Now, some people have written me, “I hear you say this, but you’re full of it. What about 2000 with Bush and McCain in South Carolina?” Special circumstance. You had a two-man race, and what was happening in South Carolina, McCain was going so far off the conservative reservation, so far off of it, that it was necessary to step in. Huckabee is getting close, I’m going to have to tell you. Huckabee’s getting close to the same stuff. Huckabee is using his devout Christianity to mask some other things that are distinctively not conservative. He is against free trade. He’s really doesn’t believe in free market. Well, let me read what George Will wrote today. This is when I go along with “the DC-New York axis.” But I just want to read from George Will’s column, a paragraph today. “Huckabee’s campaign actually is what Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy is misdescribed as being — a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs. Giuliani departs from recent Republican stances regarding two issues — abortion and the recognition by the law of same-sex couples. Huckabee’s radical candidacy broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity. [C]onsider New Hampshire’s chapter of the National Education Association, the teachers union that is a crucial component of the Democratic Party’s base. In 2004, New Hampshire’s chapter endorsed Howard Dean in the Democratic primary and no one in the Republican primary. Last week it endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary — and Huckabee in the Republican primary.” It likes Huckabee on education.

The Huckabee campaign denies that the quote -- originally unnamed in The Atlantic -- came from them. The Corner has the denial:

I just talked to Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman, who describes himself as a "huge fan" of Rush Limbaugh. Saltsman told me he "doesn't have a clue" who the Washington-based Huckabee ally quoted by the Atlantic is. "Unfortunately, anybody who gets the ear of a reporter can say they're a Huckabee ally, but that's not the view of the campaign," Saltsman told me. "We're big fans of Rush Limbaugh and have been for years, and I can tell you that's not what we think at the Huckabee campaign in Little Rock. We have nothing but respect for Rush Limbaugh and know that he's a big part of the conservative movement in this country. That's one person's opinion in DC, but it doesn't represent the view of the Huckabee campaign. I can only hope we'll get a chance to talk to Rush and make sure that he knows that's not coming from us."

Had Huckabee not gone out of his way to slap at George Bush, people may have believed the denial, because attacking Rush makes no sense at all. Candidates who disagree with him would normally just avoid talking about it. No one needs the figurative 800-pound gorilla in the room stomping on them, and Rush has a much more powerful podium than any of the people in this race.

I'd think that the source will wind up being a lower-level operative with a big mouth. Still, the damage is done. Huckabee will have a hard time living this down, although maybe not so much in Iowa, where the caucusers tend to like populists. Expect this to sting most in South Carolina and the national numbers.


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