IS HUCKABEE THE NEXT PAT ROBERTSON?

Last week, TAP columnist Sarah Posner explained why GOP honchos have so far refused to get behind the surging candidacy of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: he's soft on immigration and believes in taxes. When applied to the leaders of the religious right -- such as Phyllis Schlafly -- Sarah's exegesis casts a harsh light on their priorities, leading me to suspect that for some, that religion thing is just a cover for a doctrine of greed and scapegoating. (Ya think?)

Today, Zev Chafets, in his engaging profile of Huckabee that will run this Sunday in the New York Times Magazine, offers a companion theory of why the top dogs in the religious right (with the exception of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Falwell, Jr.), have refused to line up for the former Arkansas preacher: even a failed presidential run stands to vault him to the front of the religious-right-leader pack.

‘‘Mike Huckabee isn’t just another politician,’’ [Charles Dunn, dean of the school of government at Regent University] told me. ‘‘He is an evangelical minister. If he does well in Iowa, as he appears to be doing, he will become a national figure no matter what happens after that. He could wind up eclipsing all the other evangelical leaders in this country in one fell swoop. And you know what it says in the Book of Proverbs. ‘Envy is the rottenness of the bones.’ ’’

Later in the piece, Chafets reminds his readers that Huckabee today occupies roughly the same place in the polls that Pat Robertson did in 1988. What did that get the "sage of Virginia Beach"? A mailing list that became the foundation for the Christian Coalition.

--Adele M. Stan

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