Why Aren't We Hearing More About Brownback and Huckabee?

(AP)
For months, political commentators have been talking about how the field of Republican presidential candidates lacks a candidate to appeal to the Republican base – the social conservatives instrumental to the elections of George W. Bush. Rudy Giuliani is seen as too socially liberal. Mitt Romney and John McCain, meanwhile, have articulated relatively liberal positions on hot-button issues in the past. Though they have moved rightward, both are viewed skeptically by social conservatives.

Thus the conventional wisdom among reporters is that Republicans lack a strong candidate for the 2008 election. Republicans seem to feel the same way: Newt Gingrich, a man with dubious claims to the moral high ground, is trying to position himself as the candidate of social conservatives, while Fred Thompson flirts with a run based largely on the fact that he is a familiar face about whom most Americans know too little to have a problem.

Which raises the question: Why has there been so little press coverage of Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee? Both candidates have the social bona fides to satisfy their base, a base that the media has long told us is instrumental to the Republicans' chances for success. I put the question to CBSNews.com Senior Political Editor (and former Public Eye editor) Vaughn Ververs.

"Up until now, they haven't gotten the attention because they haven't demonstrated that they have much support," said Ververs. "In order for that to be demonstrated, they need to have some tangible evidence – which would be polls, fundraising, things we can measure support by. And if you look at those measurements, they are far behind people that supposedly aren't that conservative."

Even conservative Republicans, Ververs points out, don't seem to be that excited about the two candidates, as the seeming endorsement of Gingrich by Focus On The Family's James Dobson and the excitement among Republicans over Thompson illustrates.

Still, there is plenty of time left for that to change.

"The fact that they're not getting attention a year out does not mean that one of them won't make a breakthrough in a state like Iowa, where there are a lot of social conservatives, and where they may end up making a splash," said Ververs.

That won't be easy, however, unless they can get the press corps to pay a little more attention to them and a little less to the candidates with better fundraising and poll numbers.