Political junkies and historians must have been throwing their remotes at the television last night when FOX News' Bill O'Reilly stumbled through an error-ridden Campaign '08 segment on The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly tried his best to argue three points:
1) Mike Huckabee has no chance to win the Republican nomination,
2) A Huckabee win in Iowa is meaningless because the Hawkeye State caucuses don't really matter, and
3) The traditional media is backing Huckabee because they think he has no shot at beating the eventual Democratic nominee.
As evidence for "the left leaning media want(ing) the weakest Republican candidate they can get," O'Reilly stated:
"But it's according to the national polls. If you look at the polling, you know, Huckabee's in play now because of Iowa. But if you look at the national polling down the list, he's still below 10 percent."
O'Reilly is dead wrong here and he should be doubly embarrassed for his mistake. O'Reilly already lost a gentleman's bet to former Bill Clinton strategist and FOX News analyst Dick Morris: Morris bet O'Reilly on his program a few months ago that Huckabee would at some point reach 10 percent in the national polls, a feat that Huckabee first achieved in the first week of November 2007 in Rasmussen and CNN polling.
O'Reilly frequently boasts that his program is "analysis based on facts." That's why his claim Huckabee is "still below 10 percent" is so egregious: Huckabee has registered above 10 percent in the last three national public polls: 16 percent in the new USA Today/Gallup poll, 17 percent in the latest Rasmussen poll, and 11 percent in the latest Zogby/Reuters poll.
Knowing that Huckabee is leading in the Iowa polls, O'Reilly then tried to minimize Huckabee's surprising success by suggesting the Iowa caucuses are unimportant, and then comparing Huckabee to another preacher's campaign, Pat Robertson:
"Now this Iowa Caucus thing, I think, is a little shell game. Remember, Pat Robertson won the Iowa Caucus. Remember that. And Pat Robertson stepped down today as head of his organization. His son is taking over. It didn't help him in the general election. And the media loves this because they can manipulate the Iowa thing all over, make it a big deal. It's really not a big deal, is it?"
In truth, Pat Robertson did not win the Iowa Caucuses during his 1988 presidential campaign. He actually lost by double digits. Bob Dole won with 37 percent while Robertson earned 25 percent. O'Reilly is confusing Robertson's surprise showing with the fact that he did beat eventual GOP nominee George H. W. Bush, who came in third at 19 percent.
If they would appear on his program John Kerry and Howard Dean might just have some different thoughts on the importance of Iowa's caucuses in determining the eventual nominee of the major political parties.