After the results of this weekend (and a new poll showing Virginia to be more competitive – ), it is clearly apparent that many voters consider Mike Huckabee the “conservative” choice. I find that surprising, but then again, I have to remember that not everyone in America is the political geek I am.
Therefore, I figured a comparison of the two gentlemen would be a good idea, similar to my McCain-Bush comparison of Saturday. Here we go.
Foreign Policy and the WBK War: The two candidates are nearly identical on the issues. Both support the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters; and both believe Guantanamo should be shut down. Huckabee has publicly stated his opinion that transiting the enemy combatants would not automatically give them habeas corpus rights, while McCain has not stated where he would house the enemy combatants.
What separates them is experience: McCain has it in spades, while Huckabee is so green he didn’t even know what the Iran National Intelligence Estimate was until the media told him about it. On this issue, McCain has the edge.
Political speech: Yes, yes, McCain-Feingold, I understand that. How many times has Huckabee promised to repeal it? What was that? Zero. For that reason alone, I’d call this a wash.
Energy: McCain’s support for a cap-and-trade greenhouse policy certainly puts him to to the left of every Republican who has run for President – except Huckabee, who also backs cap-and-trade (Bloomberg). Another wash.
Gun rights:Again, McCain has voted against the “assault weapons ban” twice: 1994 and 2004. The only difference between the two is the “gun-show loophole” issue, where McCain favors closing it and Huck doesn’t. Still, it’s a difference, so Huck has the edge here.
Abortion (and embryonic stem cell research): On the broader issue, both men are terrific; but I’ll admit Huck is better on ESCR that McCain. I would say the issue is rapidly becoming moot with the progress being made in other SCR research, but a difference is a difference. Huck has the edge here, too.
Judges: This is the biggest social issue battlefield, and surprisingly, McCain is stronger here. He seems to have a far better definition of a good justice (Roberts and Alito) than Huckabee (Lavenski Smith).
Crime and punishment: McCain, as a Senator, doesn’t have much to go on either way. However, compared to Huckabee’s appalling history with granting clemency to hardened criminals, McCain comes off smelling like a rose. McCain by a country mile.
Government Spending: This is a no-brainer. McCain has Tom Coburn’s upport, his oppositon to the disastrously huge Medicare Part D, and his crusade against earmarks. Huckabee? He supported Medicare Part D (Club for Growth), and even kept the door open for the Democrats’ SCHIP debalce (Wall Street Journal), a plan so onerous and costly it couldn’t even win the approval of voters in Oregon. McCain is head and shoulders above Huck here.
Taxes: Yes, McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, but he has rightly concluded that to let them expire would be a de facto mammoth tax increase. He also supports eliminating the Alternate Minimum Tax and cutting the corporate income tax. Huckabee, meanwhile, has had a terrible history of tax hiking as Governor (he actually out tax-hiked Bill Clinton – Arkansas Leader). Meanwhile, his “Fair Tax” would include a de facto entitlement to every single American - hardly the stuff of limited government. McCain again.
Trade: McCain’s record on free trade is one of the best. Huck, by contrast, waxes on about “fair trade,” an economically ludicrous bottle of political snake oil. Huck’s comments on Red China (which I couldn’t help but notice) are belied by his unabashed support for PNTR in 2000, while McCain was at least willing to support conditions that the Commies stop selling arms to terrorists. McCain takes this issue, too.
Illegal Immigration: This issue comes down to this question: should we believe Huckabee now? Or when he was governor? I’ll be charitable and split the difference, which still gives Huck the edge.
In summation, Huckabee is better (we think) on immigration, while McCain is far, far superior on the economic issues and better on foreign policy. Surprisingly (for some), the other social issues are a wash. It depends on priorities, of course, but I would say McCain is far closer to what a right-winger would want from a President than Huckabee.