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Huckabee's No Robertson

10:22 PM, Jan 3, 2008 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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This New York Times news analysis of Huckabee's rise is informative, but also a little odd. Mike Huckabee just won a 9-point victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses without spending much money, having little organization, and possessing vulnerabilities on a variety of issues (taxes, foreign policy "inexperience," and the like). But Times reporter Patrick Healy's first instinct is to compare Huckabee to ... Pat Robertson, who finished second in Iowa in 1988.

Sorry, but second place isn't a nine-point victory. Just ask Mitt Romney. To make matters more confusing, Healy restates Huckabee's vulnerabilities:

Mr. Huckabee lacks teams of political veterans in New Hampshire, South Carolina and the states with primaries to follow - certainly nothing to match the operations Mr. McCain, the winner of the 2000 New Hampshire primary, and Mr. Romney, who hails from neighboring Massachusetts, have spent a year building.

And Mr. Huckabee's recent missteps, like a bungled negative advertising attack and his misstatements about Pakistan and immigration, and his paucity of foreign policy experience will be grist for his rivals.

Thing is, Huckabee had those same vulnerabilities in Iowa. He leaves Iowa as the only Republican presidential candidate to win a caucus or primary (so far). Yes, New Hampshire likes to vote differently from Iowa, and there are fewer religious conservatives in the Granite State. But what's to stop Huckabee from overcoming those obstacles, just as he overcame the obstacles that faced him in Iowa?

I'm not sure anyone fully understands what Huckabee's victory means, other than suggesting that social conservatives prefer a candidate they can laugh with and trust on the issues most important to them. But I am sure there's little historical precedent in the GOP for a victory of this scope for a candidate who came out of nowhere.

Well, almost nowhere.