Why McCain needs Huckabee … to stay in

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Please don’t count me as one of those people who think that former Gov. Mike Huckabee should drop out in deference in front runner Sen. John McCain. I just don’t think McCain is suffering too much for having Huck still in the race. Solo McCain is too big and tempting a target, just waiting to get hit by 527s and other outside hitmen or groups. Activists would have no alternative but political suicide to suggest and would be limited to calling for a third party candidate or attacking either McCain, Sen. Hilary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama. There are too many unemployed pundits out there who would go for McCain’s jugular. With Huck in the race, Huck supporters and conservative bona fides have to at least pretend to play nice. If Huck bows out, the attack dogs come out. McCain isn’t afraid of attack dogs, he’s fought them his whole life. But McCain knows that attacks would be coming at him alone, Clinton and Obama’s attacks would be split between the two. Splitting the attacks gives the Democrats some cover and could offer them a natural Teflon to “swiftboating.” Of course McCain would like to be the only Republican in the race (eventually), but there is an advantage to having an undecided race for now. Huck does not enjoy the across-the-middle support that McCain does, but unless several Republicans are serious about supporting Democrats if McCain is on the ballot, Sen. McCain will have swayed them by November.

McCain without Huckabee has no reason to defend his conservative beliefs. With Huckabee in the race he gets to say how conservative he is and address the real concerns that the conservatives have with him. If Huckabee drops out today, then from tomorrow until November there will be no letting up. Democrats of all stripes will be out for McCain blood. There is no reason that the Republicans should have a target sitting up for the bloodbath, better to treat this as an inter-party fight than welcome the other party to the fight.

It’s far better for McCain to be the presumptive nominee while leaving Huck to take his share of the friendly fire. At least until the Democrats sort themselves out and pick a nominee, then it’s a real fight.

 

Mike Ellis

Columnist/Politics

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