Examining the Potential GOP Candidates (Part III): Mike Huckabee


Mike Huckabee would be a formidable opponent to President Obama; however, signs indicate he will decline to run in 2012.

Huckabee, governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, was a candidate during the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. He came in third place to John McCain and Mitt Romney in both the popular vote and number of states won.

A self-described man of strong religious faith, he employs his religious beliefs to give him guidance and strength. In his book, From Hope to Higher Ground, he discusses his experiences as a minister and how that gives him special insight into politics and governing. Following 2008, he turned into a celebrity of sorts. He penned several books and became the host of the Fox News program, Huckabee.

He possesses several strengths as a potential candidate. He is well-known by the general electorate and well-respected by the conservative base. If he should choose to run, he will have mostly positive name recognition that other candidates lack. This is evidenced by polling data collected by Rasmussen. Only Mike Huckabee (Tie) and Mitt Romney (Romney +2) do well against Obama. Likely, this is due to positive name recognition.

These polls and his support from social conservatives highlight Huckabee’s major advantages over other leading contenders like Sarah Palin and Romney. Compared to Palin, Huckabee appears to be electable. Romney struggles with social conservatives. This could give Huckabee the perfect mix to do well in the nomination process.

For all the positives, there are some negatives as well. His record as a pro-government governor does not sit well with some fiscal conservatives and Tea Party members. For example, during his time as governor, he increased sales taxes by 37%, fuel taxes by 16%, and cigarette taxes by 103%. Also, the number of state workers increased by over 20% and he received an “F” from the Cato Institute on fiscal issues in 2006.

His record is not conducive to the political mood of the primary electorate. This will present him with an uphill battle if he chooses to run. His time as governor has also come under fire for a pardon he issued to a criminal who then killed several police officers in Washington state.

While early straw polls have showed he would be a formidable candidate, it is still not clear Huckabee is even interested in making a second run. He has done next to nothing to prepare a presidential campaign. Additionally, two of his former aides in Iowa have been hired by potential opponents. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann snagged Huckabee's Iowa political director in 2008, Wes Enos. Tim Pawlenty has signed another key Huckabee aide in Iowa, Eric Woolson. Many view this as yet another indication that he is not running in 2012.

Huckabee combines the positive political attributes of both Romney and Palin. He appears electable against Obama and he continues to enjoy support among social conservatives. He is well known and likable; however, his record as governor could hurt him in certain voting circles. He would be an enormous force should he choose to run. With this being said, I do not expect him to be a candidate in 2012.

UPDATE (16 May 2011, 10:26 pm): Mike Huckabee recently announced on his television show that he will not be a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2012.

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