It takes a monumental effort to run a Christmas ad – a Christmas ad! – and have it boomerang against you, but Mike Dukakabee managed to pull it off.
For the record, I have not seen “the ad;” further for the record, I personally have no problem with “the ad.” He wished Iowans Merry Christmas, for cryin’ out loud.
However, I will not follow the logic of some Huck supporters and automatically assume he had no other motive for the ad. Plenty of people in the world do the right thing and hope to benefit from it. It’s why we demand wages for our work instead of a heartfelt thank-you.
So, yes, I do believe Huck was looking to score some points with Iowa voters (social conservatives especially), set himself up for ridiculous attacks from the left which made it easier for Republicans of all stripes to like him, and divert the conversation from Wayne Dumont, other pardons, tax hikes, and foreign policy concerns. That doesn’t mean he was disingenuous in wishing Iowans a Merry Christmas; it does mean he had a good idea of what would happen, and figured it would be to his benefit.
Until today, one would have to say he figured right. However, that all changed this morning with the reaction of Catholic League President Bill Donohue (From Kathryn Jean Lopez, via NRO – The Corner):
Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, is forever fighting back against attempts to push religion out of the public square. But he’s come out against the Huckabee Christmas ad. Via AP, here’s what he said on Fox this morning:
Catholic League president Bill Donahue said the former Arkansas governor went way beyond wishing people a joyous holiday.
He was especially disturbed by the cross-like image created by a white bookcase in the background of the ad, saying he believed it was a subliminal message.
”What he’s trying to say to the evangelicals in western Iowa (is): I’m the real thing,” Donahue said Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s ”Fox and Friends. ”You know what, sell yourself on your issues, not on what your religion is.”
The Dukakabists are in for a very painful lesson about the social conservative coalition. For years (if not decades), the “religious right” has been perceived as almost exclusively evangelical and/or Protestant, in no small part due to the very active participation of evangelical and Protestant ministers. However, the movement has always relied on heavy Catholic support, especially outside the Old Confederacy (and in more urban/suburban portions thereof). If Donohue’s reaction is any indication (and that’s still an “if” at this point), it means the Huckster can not count on Catholic support during the nomination process. That is a huge disadvantage to him, one that I’m guessing he did not anticipate and probably still does not recognize (Catholics are just over 4% of the Arkansas population).
Lest anyone forget, it was a Catholic reaction to Bob Jones that cost George W. Bush the Michigan primary in 2000. I’m not saying a repeat is coming (and I’m certainly not ready to call Huckabee anti-Catholic), but Huck ticked off the wrong person. The Christmas ad has now become – to my complete shock – a liability.