December 10, 2013

The State reports on South Carolina politics:

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who will get a visit from S.C. pastors later this week, led a pool of 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls among Palmetto State Republican voters, according to a new poll.

Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008, received 18 percent ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (17 percent) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (14 percent) in the poll from Gravis Marketing.

A pair of U.S. senators who have visited South Carolina this year — Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky — followed.

Among all registered voters — South Carolina allows anyone to vote in a party primary –  Christie led Bush and Huckabee by slight margins.

And, to the dismay of right-wing pundits convinced the incumbent is “vulnerable,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) leads his closest competitor 54 to 10 percent. There is time, I suppose, to mount a real challenge to Graham, but the notion that he is a sitting duck is one confined largely to the right-wing blogosphere, it seems.

As for the presidential race, we are looking at name recognition at this point. The right-wing’s infatuation with Cruz and Paul isn’t shared, at least not yet, with the base around the country. The far-right’s bogeymen Christie and Bush outpace them for now. This tells us a few things. First, we are reminded again that the views of right-wing, D.C.-based activists and blogs aren’t representative of much more than the right-wing, D.C.-based activists and blogs. Keep that in mind as we get closer to the 2014 and 2016 elections. Second, mainstream Republicans like Christie have a chance to make good first impressions on voters in early primary states; the well has not been poisoned. They would be wise to make good use of this time to develop their message and gain confidence on issues outside of their bailiwick (e.g. foreign policy).

And then there is Huckabee. There is no indication yet that Huckabee is all that interested in giving up his lucrative media career for the drudgery of the campaign trail. If he chooses to put a toe in, he might find the water more inviting than in 2008 when he peaked in the Iowa caucuses. For one thing, his brand of cuddly conservatism and concern for the poor and middle class is more in fashion now than during his first run. And, as we’ve noted before, running a second time is much easier than a rookie outing. Huckabee would have his challenges, of course. He’d need a more defined agenda, a solid response to attacks in 2008 on his record in Arkansas and a rationale for picking a GOP governor who’s been out of the political loop for a while over one of the current crop of governors.

If nothing else, then, the South Carolina poll reminds us how fluid the 2016 primary will be and the number of candidates who might roll the dice. Oh, and it’s a good reminder to disregard the folks who cheer Rand Paul, told us Christine O’Donnell was a swell candidate and demonize Graham. They don’t count for much with actual voters.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.