. . . and it’s surprisingly weak. Does he always write like this? I want more David Brooks, less Fox News Sunday! Besides, Peggy Noonan made his same points last week, only better. First, Kristol today:
I was watching the debate at the home of a savvy, moderately conservative New Hampshire Republican. It was at this moment that he turned to me and said: “You know, I’ve been a huge skeptic about Huckabee. I’m still not voting for him Tuesday. But I’ve got to say — I like him. And I wonder — could he be our strongest nominee?”
He could be. After the last two elections, featuring the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry, Americans — even Republicans! — are ready for a likable regular guy. Huckabee seems to be that. He came up from modest origins. He served as governor of Arkansas for more than a decade. He fought a successful battle against being overweight. These may not be utterly compelling qualifications for the presidency. I’m certainly not ready to sign up.
Still, as the conservative writer Michelle Malkin put it, “For the work-hard-to-get-ahead strivers who represent the heart and soul of the G.O.P., there are obvious, powerful points of identification.” And they speak to younger voters who are not yet committed to the G.O.P. In Iowa, Huckabee did something like what Obama did on the Democratic side, albeit on a smaller scale. He drew new voters to the caucuses. And he defeated Mitt Romney by almost two to one, and John McCain by better than four to one, among voters under 45.
Noonan on Friday:
What we have learned about Mr. Huckabee the past few months is that he’s an ace entertainer with a warm, witty and compelling persona. He won with no money and little formal organization, with an evangelical network, with a folksy manner, and with the best guileless pose in modern politics. From the mail I have received the past month after criticizing him in this space, I would say his great power, the thing really pushing his supporters, is that they believe that what ails America and threatens its continued existence is not economic collapse or jihad, it is our culture.
They have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools’ squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don’t admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don’t need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.
They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues–taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia–and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.
Now that I think about it, why didn’t the Times get Peggy Noonan* to be their new op-ed conservative? Like David Brooks, her writing is more observational than ideological, she’s reflective about her political experience in a way that actually lends some perspective to her columns and — this is key! — she’s female. Or does the Times have a thing about women? She could have at least done one column a week, which, fortunately, is apparently all Kristol is getting.
*What I Saw At The Revolution is a really good book, too — even if you don’t care a whit about Reagan.