There's an awful lot of handwringing going on over at the National Review over Huckabee's decimation of his rivals in Iowa. Here are some choice quotes from the magazine's "Symposium" on the issue:
When George W. Bush proclaimed Jesus Christ to be his favorite political phiolosopher, the Right chastized liberals for belittling and mocking the comment. Irreverent elitist Liberals, they insisted, simply could not be expected to understand how people of faith think and what they believe. Meanwhile, Liberals understood the comment for what it was: the cartoonishly obious product of an intellectually incurious mind. You can't simply paper over a fantastically incompetent candidate's failings with life-sized posters of Jesus, but that's exactly what Conservatives did with George W. Bush. As a result a significant portion of the Republican base now choses its favored candidate based largely upon how much that candidate loves Jesus, and all other qualities or qualifications take a distant second place.
"Liberal interest groups haven’t had such an enviable fundraising opportunity since George W. Bush raised the arsenic level in kids’ drinking water. The Democratic direct-mail barons are doing handsprings. “I Like Mike,” they are shouting. School prayer. Back-alley abortions. Supreme Court nominees. Christian Nation. For them, happy days are here again."
"Fortunately for Mitt Romney — and defenders of the current conservative coalition — Obama’s Iowa win will likely set off a huge and exciting battle in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, thus potentially pulling independents away from the GOP primary and undercutting McCain a bit. The game’s not yet over. But Giuliani is now back in it, thanks to Huck."
"I still think Huckabee is very much a long shot to win the nomination. While large percentages of Republican voters are Christians, they are also conservatives and eventually, Huckabee’s dubious conservative bona fides and record should sink his bid. But I admit that could be wishful thinking on my part."
"...a Huckabee victory would be very bad news for conservatism as we know it."
"Huckabee is a fringe Republican, and does not represent the conservative movement on economic policy, domestic programs, law and order, and foreign policy. It is hard to imagine a candidate so out of step with most in the conservative movement assuming the stage in Minnesota in eight months as its leader."
Of course, it's a gross over-simplification to lay this transformation wholly on one comment by George W. Bush and the subsequent defense offered by his supporters. After all, the GOP party elites have been doing this sort of thing for years, fully cognizant of the importance of the evangelical vote to their party's ability to remain in power. But the simple truth is that, in relying more and more on the power of the Jesus meme to make working class voters overlook the party's elitist economic policies, the GOP elites have brought the party to where it is now. The GOP is now in squarely theocratic hands. If 2000 saw the GOP pushing a "CEO President," 2008 might well see them saddled with a "Baptist Preacher President."