It's impossible to run two campaigns at once. And that's what Huckabee is trying to do—selling his take on economic populism to working-class and middle-class Republicans, yet simultaneously fear-mongering evangelical Republicans into viewing him as their champion. The target audiences have plenty of overlap, of course. But you'd have to possess alchemical political skills beyond even Huckabee's to make these two campaign themes blend into a smooth and convincing package. You can't sell hope and despair, or empowerment and victimhood, all at the same time. You can't convince people to see the government as their friend when you're also telling them it's out to extinguish the practice of Christianity.
You can hear the dissonance as Huckabee campaigns: The day after his Cedar Falls speech, Huckabee was still carrying on about religious liberties at his first stop—"I do believe there is an assault against the basic fundamental liberties of the United States that we have never seen before"—when he attempted an awkward transition: Not only is the country "spiritually sick," he said, but also "economically sick." From there, he was off and running about the loss of manufacturing jobs and the evils of trade.
I feel pretty confident in asserting that Huckabee is losing no sleep over the dissolution of his liberal fan club. We weren't exactly his target audience. But Huckabee once had the potential to be a transformational figure, the Christian populist who could spark a true debate within the GOP about economics and the size of government—and now he has painted himself into a corner that probably makes this impossible. Which is a shame, if you ask this liberal. It's still the case that nobody in American politics can give a more powerful, persuasive populist testimony than Mike Huckabee. But who can hear it anymore?