Some U.S. Christians are not reconciled to McCain's candidacy but instead regard the prospective presidency of Barack Obama in the nature of a biblical plague visited upon a sinful people. These militants look at former Baptist preacher Huckabee as "God's candidate" for president in 2012. Whether they can be written off as merely a troublesome fringe group depends on Huckabee's course.
Huckabee's announced support of McCain is unequivocal, and he is regarded in the McCain camp as a friend and ally. But credible activists are spreading the word that Huckabee secretly allies himself with the bitter-end opposition. That hardly seems possible considering his public backing, but critics of Huckabee's 10 years as governor of Arkansas say he is all too capable of playing a double game.
On yesterday's Hardball, Mike Huckabee responded to Novak's column, referring to it as "total nonsense," and "off the wall." He insisted that evangelicals would back McCain, but did note that they may be "a little [reluctant] because McCain wasn't their first pick."
MATTHEWS: Governor Huckabee, do you buy that Bob Novak column the other day that wanted to stir up trouble between McCain and the Christian right? Saying that the Christian right believes that the election of Barack Obama is God's judgment on a sinful people?
HUCKABEE: No. That's total nonsense. In fact, I had a conversation on the phone with Bob Novak and I told him that was absolutely off the wall. I have not heard one single person in the evangelical community say oh, let's get Obama elected because that'll be just a great sign of God's judgement. Look, people in the evangelical community are going to support John McCain. They may have done it a little reluctantly because McCain wasn't their first pick. Let's all be honest about that. But if they match him up with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, it's an easy call, they will coalesce, they will go to the polls, they will work for him and I think he's going to win the election.
There's one interesting wrinkle, however, raised by the Novak piece. Huckabee comes to MSNBC, ostensibly as an independent pundit, billed alongside Harold Ford, Jr., as one of "the Insiders." But Novak's piece contains a quote from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis that implies that Huckabee has an official campaign linkage with McCain: "I feel we haven't used him [Huckabee] enough." Does MSNBC have a Rovian style disclosure problem of their own?