I headed over to the National Review blog last week for the first time in a couple months. I'd been sticking with the dead-tree edition of National Review for the last while, but I wanted to see what the reaction was to the Huckabee win in Iowa.
Total free fall.
I don't think I'd seen that National Review writers so mad since Bush nominated Miers to the Supreme Court.
Did we want the GOP to morph into a clone of the European Christian Democrat parties? Did no one care about economic and small government conservatism anymore? Was this a strictly sectarian vote of Evangelicals for a Baptist minister? WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING ON?
As things settled out, the basic conclusion seemed to be: Iowa is an unusual state, and the caucus system emphasizes that yet further. No need to worry, we'll get Romney or McCain -- or maybe Rudy at a long shot -- in the end.
That analysis may be basically right, but in what I could read about the sentiments being expressed in Iowa, I think there are two more things that people should take away from this:
1) All of us Christian conservatives who have been threatening to stay home or vote third party if Rudy is the nominee really are serious. After being told for months that Giuliani's pro-choice history didn't matter, Iowans turned out and voted for the most religiously vocal candidate available, and they did so pretty overwhelmingly. So for those who are now shouting, "Anyone but Huck," and wondering how to quiet the storm, the answer is: Throw Rudy overboard. There are much more conservative candidates out there than Rudy, and religious conservatives will be much more pliable once they're not being threatened with a pro-choice, anti-gun, cross-dressing New Yorker.
2) Even among registered Republicans, true intellectual conservatives are probably in the minority. We have a lot of tempermental conservatives: people who are pretty sure that most changes won't turn out for the good. We also have plenty of religious conservatives, who may not actually be all that conservative on size-of-government and economics, though those views are gradually rubbing off on them. But movement, intellectual conservatives are and probably always will be, a minority. So we shouldn't be shocked when it turns out that a lot of Republicans are actually quite open to a populist message combined with social conservatism and a proposal for a Fair Tax.
At the end of the day, I'm not crazy about Huckabee, though I'd vote for him in the unlikely event that he's actually the nominee. But the message I hope is getting through somewhere over in party headquarters is: If you totally ignore pro-life Republicans, things you don't like will start happening.