In 49 BC Julius Caesar violated Roman law and crossed over the River Rubicon with his legions. The act was considered treasonable and could have cost Caesar his life. Instead he led his armies to victories over his enemies and became the leader of the Roman Empire.
In the wake of getting swept in yesterday’s Chesapeake Primaries, Mike Huckabee has reached his own Rive Rubivon, a line of demarcation between two clear courses of action that potentially lead to two different futures.
Huckabee is the only real opposition John McCain still faces. Ron Paul and the like are still on the ballot, but together they got less than 10% of the vote yesterday. Huckabee is the only candidate in the field who can slow McCain’s progress to the nomination, and the only one who can potentially defeat him primaries.
The Rubicon Huckabee faces can be summed up in the immortal words of The Clash: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Huckabee has only a statistical chance at the nomination. It would require sweeping the field with somewhere north of 65% in every remaining state. Staying in only hurts McCain and makes him use resources now he could use in the general. No matter how much Huckabee pops off bon mots like “I didn’t major in math, I majored in miracles.” But Huckabee is now playing a very earthy and not very miraculous game, so he does not care about McCain’s finances-that is not part of the game he is playing.
Huckabee’s game is now has an end date of 2012 or 2016, not 2008.
He knows by now that it is highly likely that McCain will not approach him about the VP slot. Bringing on an evangelical former minister is not likely to impress the independents that McCain will need in November. Also, bringing Huckabee on board is not likely to increase conservative turnout. Those that turn out will do so because they think the demo nominee is so much worse than McCain they cannot sit it out (perhaps because of Supreme Court nominations, etc.), and those that think a liberal Democrat is preferable to a “moderate” Republican will sit it out.
No, Huckabee wants to emerge from this as the new face and voice of GOP conservatism, the new Reagan. It will help if he has enough oomph to help write the platform or get the keynote speaking spot, but the big goal is to come out of this as the voice of conservatism for 2012. Staying in the field, building name ID and an organization and potentially more primaries, seemingly only makes hims stronger for 2012. As Time reported:
At a press conference [Saturday [February 9] morning, one reporter blurted out what has become for Huckabee a comfortable truth. “Governor, basically you have nothing to lose by staying in,” she called from the back of the scrum. Huckabee paused. “Ah,” he said, before smiling. “No. I don’t guess I do.”
That goal has pushed Huckabee to the Rubicon he now faces. How much longer can he stay in the race before he is seen as less a serious candidate who represents a segment of the party and more a malicious spoiler who is in for ego and to weaken McCain enough that the GOP loses in 2008 allowing Huckabee another shot in 2012?
Another consideration…how many people are voting for him less because they support him but as a protest vote against McCain? Can he safely assume that 40% of the GOP in Virginia supported him because he was their pick, or because he was the best option left whose name did not start with “McCain”?
If he has not come to the river, he can certainly see it from where he currently stands. Much of his future options depeneds on what he does in the next month. If he stays in too long, and McCain loses, then foru years from now there will be all types of GOP who will forget the tribal wars of 2008 but will remember the idea that Huckabee stayed in too long and damaged McCain.
It is smart politics to play the good sport and do now what he will eventually have to do, anyway. Here is how I think he will do it. I think he will announce prior to Texas that he is suspending his campaign. That way his supporters in Texas can still vote for him, and frankly scoring 40% or more for a suspended campaign will be tremendously impressive. He already has done well enough to ensure himself a prime time speech.
Enjoy the speech, and take notes, because we haven’t seen the last of Mike Huckabee…but his prospects for the future are going to ride in no small part on how well and how soon he chooses to cross his own presidential rubicon.