Thursday, December 13, 2007

Could Fletcher Have Been Where Huckabee Is ?

Could Fletcher Have Been Where Huckabee Is ?

It could have been me standing there with you.

It could have been me and my dreams coming true.

-Billy Ray Cyrus

He is the last Republican Governor of a southern state that normally elects Democrats. The last Democratic Governor was involved in a highly publicized extramarital affair

A former Baptist minister, the Governor is known for taking conservative positions on social issues. He has a low key and genial manner. He is known for advocating a healthy lifestyle.

No, I am not talking about Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. I am talking about Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky.

Huckabee is a front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Fletcher lost his bid for re-election by a huge margin.

Could Fletcher have been a presidential front runner like Huckabee?

Shortly after Fletcher came into office, there were rumbling about his being a national candidate.

Along with his stint as a minister, Fletcher has been a physician and a fighter pilot. He served in Congress and the state legislature. Huckabee’s resume is not as broad.

Kentucky is strategically more important in a presidential race than Arkansas. Kentucky has more electoral votes than Arkansas and borders on some of the most important “swing” states like Ohio and Illinois.

Since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, every elected president has come from the south or from the west. The perceived Republican front runners have been Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Giuliani is from New York, which has not had a president since FDR, and Romney is from Massachusetts, which elected John Kennedy in 1960.

You don’t meet many guys named Rudolph or Mitt in the states where recent presidents have come from. Names like Mike, Ernie, John or Jim-Bob are more popular.

Although John McCain has experience and is a courageous war hero from a western state, his campaign has had problems. Fred Thompson is showing that he is a much better politician in the movies than he is in real life.

I thought Thompson would fill the void for a southern candidate but the charisma he shows as an actor is not coming through on the campaign trail.

Thus, there is an opening for a southern, conservative. An opening that Mike Huckabee has taken advantage of.

It could have been Huckabee and it could have been the Ernie Fletcher that Kentucky thought they elected in 2003.

It’s easy to see how Fletcher could have been the presidential frontrunner and Huckabee sitting at home.

What happened?

Fletcher’s downfall as Governor is traced back to what is termed a “merit system scandal” in his administration. Actually, it is simpler than that: Fletcher’s downfall is tied to a personality flaw. He took criticism far too personally.

As the Godfather said, “it business, not personal.” Fletcher must have missed the movie and the book. With Fletcher, criticism of his policy became a personal insult. The deliverer of the criticism became a personal enemy.

Thus, Fletcher had a lot of enemies.

If Fletcher had apologized for his “merit system scandal” it went have went away in about 15 minutes. Instead he burrowed in and waged a long and personal attack against the prosecutor.

A brilliant strategy that got Fletcher and a bunch of his cronies indicted.

Fletcher never “got it”. He held a pep rally when he pardoned his cronies. The average citizen doesn’t think the issuance of gubernatorial pardons is something to cheer about. Fletcher’s inability to grasp public perception, combined with a well run campaign by his opponent, resulted in Fletcher getting walloped at the polls.

Getting stomped did not make Ernie more reflective. Every other Governor, even the one who was caught in the extramarital affair, took time to meet with reporters and do a final “exit interview.” Fletcher turned down some requests and granted others. I guess he is trying to “punish” reporters by refusing their interviews.

The reporters will be in Frankfort next week. Fletcher won’t be. Fletcher had a chance to define his historic legacy and screwed it up.

Huckabee and Fletcher were both Baptist ministers but Huckabee understood that part of the Bible about “turning the other cheek.”

If Fletcher had studied that passage more closely, he might have been in the running for President.

Instead of being unemployed.

Don McNay is the author of the Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher. You can write to him at or read his award winning syndicated column at

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