In retrospect, it all sort of makes you wonder why social conservatives didn't just get behind Huckabee in the first place, rather than blessing Romney's preposterous conversion to religious right values and trying to drag Fred Thompson into the race. Sure, Huckabee's not well-liked by the economic hard-right, but cultural conservatives' objections to Giuliani didn't stop his backers from pushing him on the party.Part of the answer, of course, is the obvious one: it's hard for an also-ran candidate to gain support no matter what views he does or doesn't have. After all, few people want to waste time, money, or emotional energy on a candidate who doesn't seem to have any chance of winning.
But there's something else going on here too. Christian conservatives are obviously a substantial interest group within the Republican Party, but as Jon Chait pointed out in The Big Con, that's all they are: a substantial interest group. The real bosses of the party are found among the tax jihadists and corporate interest groups who make up its economic wing. Or, as my editor headlined my review of Chait's book, "Forget neocons and theocons. It's the money-cons who really run Bush's Republican Party."
What's more, I think the Christian Right knows this. Like it or not, they know that a socially conservative candidate without money-con backing has no chance of winning the nomination, while the opposite isn't true. At a level that's almost unconscious, then, they preemptively gave up on Huckabee before the race even started. With the Club for Growth and the Wall Street Journal editorial page against him, they knew Huckabee didn't stand a chance.
Huckabee's problem is that in the end, in today's GOP, hating unions is more important than hating gays, and eliminating the estate tax is more important than eliminating abortion. Howard Beale would understand.