There’s an article in The American Conservative in which the author, Michael Brendan Dougherty, whines about the fact that Huckabee isn’t getting much support from “Beltway conservatives.”
What Mr. Dougherty doesn’t seem to understand is that a presidential candidate, in order to be viable, must hail from the religious middle. What’s the religious middle? That can best be explained by reference to the extremes. At one end are people who believe the Bible is bogus. This includes atheists as well as people from other religions such as Hindus or Buddhists. At the other end are people who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God.
While it’s obvious to many that an atheist (sadly) has no chance of being elected President of the United States, it’s somewhat less obvious that someone who believes that the Bible is the literal word of God is also outside of the mainstream, and thus not easily electable outside of Bible Belt states. Only 33% of General Social Survey respondents in 2000-2006 believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. (Furthermore, only 17% of respondents with at least a Bachelor's degree believe that. People who have graduated from college have a disproportionate impact on public opinion because they control the news media.) The correct middle view is that the Bible is inspired by God, but that you shouldn’t take everything in it literally. Evolution is the key litmus test. The only people who don’t believe in evolution are those who believe that only the book of Genesis contains the true origin of the species.
Of course it’s hard to know what people truly believe. Are the Clintons really atheists? As long as they attend church, they demonstrate sufficient religiosity to pass the test. The same applies on the right. George W. Bush may personally believe that Genesis is the literal word of God, but at least he knows enough to be vague about his personal beliefs when speaking publicly; he supports teaching “intelligent design” along with evolution, which is not the same as saying that only the Book of Genesis should be taught in the schools.
When Huckabee makes public the fact that his has a minority view on religion, he makes himself unelectable. And that is why he’s not going to win the Republican nomination (in addition to the fact that he’s also totally out of his league when discussing real policy issues).
I suspect that Mitt Romney believes that the Book of Mormon is the literal word of God (why else would he send all five of his sons to BYU to be indoctrinated to that effect?), but he has been cagey enough to hide his true beliefs and thus not ruin his electability.