Some pro-Israel hawks are undoubtedly disappointed with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s announcement yesterday that he won’t run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
But I didn’t see a big “Jews for Huck” surge developing, and I’ve heard of very few Jewish Republican campaign finance heavyweights who were waiting for him to throw his hat in the ring.
GOP sources continue to tell me that two things are happening in the party right now. Old-line Jewish Republicans continue to stick with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, seen by many as the most moderate and the most business-oriented contender.
But there are also concerns about whether Romney will survive a Republican primary season that will be shaped to a large degree by the Tea Party movement, as well as by the Christian conservatives who are a big part of the party’s base. The fact is, big campaign givers want to back a WINNER, and at this stage it’s far from clear who has the best chance to both survive a brutal GOP primary season AND beat President Obama.
The Tea Partiers don’t like Romney because he’s…well, so establishment.. Many of the Christian conservatives agree, and then there’s the Mormon problem; there is still a big segment of evangelical Christianity that sees Mormonism as a dangerous cult.
The result of that uncertainty: while Romney is probably at the head of the pack when it comes to Jewish fundraising, a lot of Jews who generally give to GOP candidates are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see how the race shapes up between now and the first primary in 2012.
Huckabee’s announcement may reinforce that wait-and-see attitude.
Some Jewish Republicans I’ve talked to were hoping he would run, mostly because of his outspoken support for Israel and his rejection of Palestinian statehood, at least in Palestine, but I also heard a lot of uncertainty about whether he could cobble together an electoral coalition that could defeat President Obama next year.
Other GOP candidates are working the pro-Israel community, mostly through surrogates, burnishing their credentials as supporters of the current Israeli government and critics of Obama administration policy.
But at this stage, it seems to me, the targets are Jewish campaign givers, not Jewish voters, and the race is all about who is the most electable in 2012 and – secondarily – who is the most business-friendly. Positions on Israel are important, but at this stage probably a second tier factor.
Oddly, some political pros I talk to continue to say Romney is the most electable of the current GOP pack – but possibly the least nominatable because of the influence of the Tea Partiers and the evangelicals on the nomination process.