Huckabee's Rise Drives Wedge Between Wall
By Matthew Benjamin
Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Wealthy Republicans have a new political nightmare that may be scarier than Hillary Clinton: Mike Huckabee.
The former Arkansas governor has surged in Republican presidential-preference polls, winning the support of Christian fundamentalists while peppering his campaign rhetoric with jabs at the financial industry. He calls himself the candidate who isn't a ``wholly owned subsidiary'' of investment banks, decries large executive-pay packages and says the party needs to shift its focus from Wall Street to Main Street.
In doing so, he threatens the uneasy if effective coalition Republicans have counted on for three decades: abortion opponents and other social-issue activists supplying foot soldiers, proponents of tax cuts and business-friendly regulatory policies putting up the money and getting the biggest economic benefits.
``Huckabee puts this long-simmering feud between the social-conservative wing and the country-club and business crowd into starker contrast,'' said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington.
Polls show Huckabee, 52, leading in the first Republican electoral contest, the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. In national polls, he is within striking distance of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The stronger he gets in the polls, the stronger the intra- party backlash against him. ``He's sort of a populist, and that doesn't sell too well on Wall Street,'' said David Hedley, a retired managing director at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette who raised at least $100,000 for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.
The Club for Growth, a Washington-based group that advocates tax and spending cuts, has mounted a campaign against Huckabee in Iowa and South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary on Jan. 19. The group said Dec. 14 it is doubling advertising purchases and urged taxpayers to call Huckabee and challenge him on his tax policy.
The group says Huckabee's tax increases while governor from 1996 to 2007 far surpassed reductions, with the average tax burden for state residents increasing 47 percent during his tenure.
``Mike Huckabee is not an economic conservative,'' said Pat Toomey, a former Pennsylvania congressman and the club's president. ``He's the only Republican in the field who really is truly a big-government liberal.''
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has repeatedly attacked Huckabee in recent weeks, and the National Review magazine warned Republicans against committing ``Huckacide.''
``These guys don't like Huckabee because he's not one of them,'' said Ed Rollins, the Huckabee campaign chairman. ``They have enjoyed the reins of power a long time, and he's a threat.''
Rollins, who ran Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984, recalls that some economic conservatives were initially suspicious of him too: ``Ronald Reagan wasn't one of them, and he also had raised taxes to fix problems.''
After Huckabee finished second in an August Iowa straw poll, he said in an interview that his biggest asset going into the contest ``was the negative attack ads that the Club for Greed, excuse me, the Club for Growth was running.''
Huckabee said he represents Republican voters who feel estranged from the party. ``There's an extraordinary disconnect between people who have sort of had a traditional leadership role in the Republican Party and the folks on Main Street,'' he said. ``There's a difference between Wall Street Republicans and Main Street Republicans.''
For the moment, the shots at Wall Street are helping Huckabee among Republican voters, said Costas Panagopolous, director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy at Fordham University in New York. ``In rural America and most of the country, Wall Street is a big, bad bogeyman, and he's tapping into this perception.''
Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, a nonprofit pro-family organization in Des Moines, said that ``it wouldn't surprise me that there's some antipathy for the Goldman Sachs bonuses among rank-and-file stockholders in rural Iowa.'' Hurley has endorsed Huckabee, though his organization remains neutral.
Behind on Funds
A lack of fundraising may yet hurt the candidate, especially on Feb. 5, when more than 20 states, including California and New York, will vote for a nominee.
``That's where having the dollars to do targeted advertising is particularly important,'' said Tony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert and professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. ``He won't be able to rely on momentum.''
Huckabee raised about $2.3 million as of Sept. 30, the most recent date for which figures are available. While analysts say his fundraising has picked up in recent months, his total take is a fraction of the more than $40 million that Giuliani, 63, and Romney, 60, have each brought in.
Republicans have seen social-economic rifts before, as when television evangelist Pat Robertson challenged then-Vice President George H.W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 1988. The difference now is that Robertson was never a threat to win.
``From Reagan on, the rhetoric from Republican presidents was always more responsive to the evangelical community than the actions that they took,'' said Thomas Mann, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ``It's one of the reasons why some religious conservatives have become disaffected by the political process.''
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I think it is clear that the real Republican party does not like what they see...