NPR's All Things Considered

Causes, Defining Moments Line Road to S.C. Primary

Brookings Senior Fellow E.J. Dionne joins David Brooks of the New York Times to discuss the New Hampshire primary results and candidates'  futures on NPR's All Things Considered.

MICHELE NORRIS (NPR): So, EJ and David, you heard Mike Huckabee there describing his campaign as a cause. But can you run a campaign on a cause? South Carolina is an expensive place to run a campaign. You have to bounce all over the state, run ads in several markets. Does Mike Huckabee have the money or the organization for that?

E.J. DIONNE: I think in South Carolina, he can run a campaign on it as a cause partly because evangelical Christians, his strongest group, are probably the largest part of that state's Republican primary electorate. Mike Huckabee got two pieces of good news out in New Hampshire. One, very modest, he ran third. He - it's better that he ran third - it wasn't a strong third, but he was there. But secondly, he did do well among white evangelical Christians again as he did in Iowa. There just happened not to be a whole lot of white evangelical Christians up here in New Hampshire. So, I think he may have the capacity to hang on in this race for a long time if he can keep consolidating this one important group in the Republican Party. 

DAVID BROOKS: And I would say, if he can get it narrowed down to a one-on-one race - him versus McCain, him versus Romney, him versus Giuliani - he's got a very real chance because he does have the evangelicals. He's also in touch with economic anxiety in a way, I would say, the others are not. He talks about social anxiety, which is about divorce and single parenthood, intermingled with losing your job and losing your health care. And when real people experience that anxiety, it's the social and the economic all intermingled. Then the final thing he has - he is simply the most natural campaigner in the field. So, he's got a lot of unlikely aspects to him. He doesn't believe in theory of evolution. That's not so great if you're going to run a national campaign. But he's also got a lot of skills. And I've talked to a bunch of Republican consultants, and they all say he'd have a real shot if it was one-on-one - him versus somebody else.

ROBERT SIEGEL (NPR): How about the other candidates in South Carolina? We hear that Mitt Romney is pulling his ads in the state. EJ, have you heard that? 

E.J. DIONNE: I have not. But I was struck by what happened yesterday with McCain in New Hampshire. The good - very good news is that he won in New Hampshire. But he won with votes from people who aren't going to loom in large numbers in South Carolina. He won moderates and liberals. There were some liberals who voted in the Republican primary. He won with people who disapproved - who had a negative view of George Bush. Interestingly, for the strongest supporter of the war, he won with voters who don't like the war in Iraq. And as he moves down to South Carolina, a lot of the groups who are - were still reasonably big in Republican primaries - appear - are not very big down there. And as for Mitt Romney, I mean, he does have a shot in Michigan. But listening to Scott Horsley's piece, I was struck that if Howard Dean in 2004 screened the names of states, Mitt Romney sounded like he was calmly listing new markets at a sales meeting.

And I think that David is absolutely right about Mike Huckabee. He does - he is the one candidate who talks believably about people's economic anxieties.

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