As a part of our continuing series looking at presidential candidates before they drop out, I thought I’d turn my gaze tonight on two fairly similar candidates: Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.
These two are blasts from the past, with Santorum having last won an election in 2000, Huckabee in 2002. The both come from the theocratic wing of the party. Which is not to say they’d call themselves theocrats (although Huckabee is an ordained minister) but rather that their conservatism has more to do with tradition and religion than it does with libertarianism and supply-side economics.
Both are pretty good on the stump, although as a high-church Episcopalian, Santorum’s style speaks to me more than the Baptist cadences of Huckabee’s delivery, smoooooth though he is. Huckabee is better, too, at tapping into that strain of populism that seems to be coursing through the party these days, but neither man is quite good enough to get any serious notice. In the RCP average of polls, Huckabee sits at 2.3%, while Santorum lingers way down at 0.3%. In Iowa, where both men have had better success in the past, they both poll below 2%.
My main question besides why don’t they drop out is where their former supporters are going. Huckabee won the Iowa caucus with 34% of the vote in 2008. In 2012, Santorum squeaked by the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, by 24.56% to 24.53%. Where’s that vote going? Is it still up for grabs? It seems crazy to think they’ve flocked to the seriously non-religious Donald Trump. Are they voting Carson?
It’s still early and all that, but it’s not as early as it was. Iowa caucuses in 60 days! I predict both Santorum and Huckabee will stay in until then, but a bad showing there should end if for both of them. Huckabee will go back to selling books and Santorum will go back to, what, collecting sweater vests? Whatever he does. And then the real race for social conservatives’ votes can begin.