To go all the way to the nomination, Mike Huckabee will have to reconcile his party's tension between those who worship God and those who put more faith in guns, a distinction largely lost on liberal Democrats.
Until Iowa Evangelicals embraced him, Huckabee was suspect among Values Voters, who had doubts about what he terms Second Commandment Christianity, which extends more compassion to illegal immigrants and the undeserving poor than other Republican candidates are willing to do.
“I believe,” Huckabee has said, “that life begins at conception, but I don't believe it ends at birth. I believe we have a responsibility to feed the hungry, to provide a good education, a safe neighborhood, health care.”
On the other hand, after criticizing Bush on Iraq, he had to go hunting in Iowa to reassure devotees of the Second Amendment who lean toward Giuliani's macho, John McCain's militant patriotism and Mitt Romney's imitations thereof.
All this has raised doubts about whether he is a "true conservative" across the spectrum from Rush Limbaugh primitives to the National Review intellectual wing of his party.
"Huckabee," Limbaugh contends, "is using his devout Christianity to mask some other things that are distinctively not conservative. He is against free trade. He's really doesn't believe in free market."
NR editor Rich Lowry agrees with the assessment that "Huckabee could be a disaster," likely to "lose conservatives on taxes, spending and immigration and alienate moderates and Democrats on social issues."
From here to Super Tuesday, Huckabee will have to blend the competing strains of his party to lock up the nomination. If he can do that, what they see as his shortcomings could turn out to be pluses with independent voters.