Tags: Mike Huckabee

Santorum and Huckabee


One of our Postmodern Conservative commenters asked why we weren’t giving more attention to Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul as potential 2016 presidential nominees. It was a good question. I’ll leave Rand Paul for another day, but here is my thinking for why Santorum and Huckabee are unlikely to get the GOP presidential nomination in 2016:

Santorum deserves a lot more respect than he gets. He is a principled social conservative. He was the only one in the 2012 Republican field who recognized that the Republican message aimed at entrepreneurs and right-leaning professionals had too little appeal. Santorum recognized the weaknesses that Obama exploited in the general election. Jeb Bush would be smart to study what was right with the 2012 Santorum campaign, but he probably won’t. The entire Republican establishment response to the 2012 loss was to double down on the priorities and sensibilities of the business lobbies.

One objection to Santorum is that his 2012 working-class economic message was badly out of day. Santorum was trying to appeal, both culturally and economically, to the working class of 1972 rather than that of 2012. That is a problem, but it is probably remediable. Policy agendas can be rewritten in order to adapt to changing circumstances.

But Santorum’s biggest problems have less to do with his agenda, than with his personality. When under pressure, he can’t avoid getting into self-defeating arguments. There is no reason to expect that this is going to change in his fifties. Santorum also seems to lack some executive skills. Santorum wasn’t able to raise a large amount of money early in his campaign, but fundraising networks can be built. The real problem was that Santorum wasn’t able to manage what should have been under his control. His campaign had trouble organizing the setting for interviews. Most of his primary night speeches were poorly organized and self-indulgent. Santorum is a good man who deserves our respect (more so than just about any Republican who ran for the 2012 nomination), but he is just missing some of the talents it takes to go all the way in a contemporary presidential race.

Talent is one thing that Huckabee has. If presidential campaigns were run on paper, Huckabee would be the frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination. Not a frontrunner.  The frontrunner. He has a large, pre-existing base among white evangelical Christians (most of Santorum’s 2012 vote would almost certainly go to Huckabee). Huckabee would enter the 2016 with much higher name recognition and a larger fundraising base than in 2008. He has the kind of winning personality that could appeal to open-minded voters and he could benefit from being underestimated in all the right ways.  

Huckabee was weak on national policy in 2008, but that should be fixable. Santorum can’t make himself less choleric, but Huckabee could hit the briefing books.

But it turns out that Huckabee isn’t all that serious about running a presidential campaign. His speech to this year’s CPAC was a series of conservative Christian identity politics gestures. He is still in favor of the politically suicidal FairTax.

Well, the FairTax is suicidal for a presidential candidate. It is just fine for a political entertainer. Huckabee just seems to occasionally hint that he is running for president as a way of refreshing his entertainment industry brand. It is reasonable (and maybe even admirable) that he is reticent to run for president. But normal people have a limited appetite for politics and for disappointment. Huckabee’s cynical flirting with the presidential campaign is toying with the emotions of real people who are being badly served by our politics

I just wish we could somehow give Huckabee’s talents and executive experience to Santorum.   

Tags: Rick Santorum , Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee And The FairTax Test


Mike Huckabee is either publicly contemplating running for president or is perpetrating a scam to raise his Q-Score.

On paper, Huckabee should be the strongest of the potential GOP presidential candidates. No one else has his combination of charisma, executive experience, wide name recognition, and pre-existing base among the party’s evangelical Christians. The problem is that he has never been sufficiently serious about the preparation aspect of running for president. Huckabee didn’t do the policy homework during his 2008 presidential run (as Ross Douthat pointed out at the time). If anything Huckabee has regressed since embarking on his new career in the entertainment industry. His most recent CPAC speech was a lazy and disjointed bit of ideological niche marketing rather than something from a prospective president.

If you want to know how far Huckabee can go, look what he does with his FairTax proposal. The Republican party is not going to nominate someone who wants to impose a 30 percent (or perhaps even higher) federal sales tax. Even if Huckabee manages to consolidate the evangelical vote (which might not happen if the other candidates target his tax proposal early), the other elements of the GOP nominating electorate will rally behind whatever establishment candidate survives the New Hampshire primary. As long as Huckabee sticks with the FairTax, he can’t be anything more than the candidate who finishes second.

That doesn’t mean that Huckabee couldn’t have an impact. Michele Bachmann only competed in one delegate selecting contest (in which she finished last), but she helped Romney take down Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich (though Gingrich would have a brief resurrection after Bachmann dropped out).

Huckabee is a far better campaigner than Bachmann and, as Henry Olsen pointed out, Huckabee’s political base in Iowa is quite large. A Huckabee campaign could knock Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz out of the box quickly, and suck up any oxygen that might be available for a candidate that hasn’t been blessed with the favor of the big party donors and the Washington consultant class. But Huckabee isn’t the guy who beats the Republican establishment. He is, at most, the candidate who gets beaten by the Republican establishment and does the GOP establishment the favor of preventing other populist Republicans from getting any traction.

But maybe this is all just part of a Huckabee marketing scam, and he just suckered me into providing him with a teeny bit of free publicity. I hope that is the case.   

Tags: Mike Huckabee

Huckabee’s Carefully Coordinated Presidential Buzz


Hmm. There’s one story that crops up all over the political media today.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post:

Add another name to the list of potential GOP presidential contenders for 2016. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, who took a pass on the 2012 presidential race — says he might be willing to give it another try.

In an interview Thursday night, Huckabee said he is receiving encouragement to run “from places where I never got it before.”

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has not been among the Republicans frequently named as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but he would like that to change.

“I’m keeping the door open,” Mr. Huckabee said in an interview here Thursday night about the possibility of seeking his party’s nomination again. “I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me.”

David Brody of CBN:

In an exclusive backstage television interview with The Brody File, former governor Mike Huckabee says, “there’s a new openness now” for a run at the presidency in 2016. Huckabee says he’s been encouraged to run by top evangelical and financial figures that did not back him in 2008. This time, however they say they will. The Brody File conducted the exclusive interview behind closed doors at the Convention Center in Little Rock Arkansas Thursday evening during a private event hosted by The American Renewal Project.

Not quite as exclusive as it seems.

This is what you call a highly coordinated rollout.

Tags: Mike Huckabee

Fred Thompson: Like Heck I Stayed in the Race to Hurt Huckabee!


It seems strange to relitigate a fight from the 2008 GOP presidential primary, but perhaps many Republicans’ minds are on the notion of multiple conservative candidates dividing the vote in South Carolina, leaving the “Establishment” choice a path to victory.

Mike Huckabee said on Fox News yesterday that John McCain asked Fred Thompson to stay in the race in South Carolina, in order to divide the conservative vote. McCain beat Huckabee in South Carolina by 3 percentage points.

“John certainly encouraged Fred to stay in,” Huckabee said. “I think everyone understood, Fred knew he wasn’t going to get the nomination . . . Many people in the McCain camp have since confirmed, he said, ‘please stay in, I need you in South Carolina,’ primarily in the upstate where I had my strength, but you know, that’s politics. That’s what happens.”

McCain vehemently denied the story yesterday; this morning Fred Thompson appeared on Fox News to address it.

“Minding my own business, having my second cup of coffee, contemplating the election in general terms and the future, and Mike wanted to revisit the campaign last time,” Thompson said, smiling. “What Mike said is fine, except for one thing: there’s not one shred of truth to it! Senator McCain and I never had a conversation about staying in the race, staying out of the race . . . Mike’s been around long enough to know not to inhale that stuff too deeply . . . It’s just a little rewriting of history that’s unnecessary.”

When Huckabee made his charge, he said it without any visible bitterness. Perhaps believing this claim is part of how Huckabee made his peace with the experience of running for president, enjoying some early victories, and then falling short. Even for the most thick-skinned and confident candidate, an electoral defeat must be an intensely personal rejection. After all, the name on the ballot isn’t your campaign manager, your advertising director, your press secretary, or anyone around you; it’s your name. So it’s not surprising that a candidate might look for some explanation that would shift the cause of the defeat from their own mistakes, missteps, or overall inability to persuade voters to some outside force or confluence of events.

People in politics, like people everywhere, often choose to believe conclusions that are convenient or reassuring and tend to ignore inconvenient facts and harder truths. The candidates who fail to win the Republican nomination in 2012 may very well conclude that their bid was unfairly impeded by the collusion of their foes. (Quite a few times on Twitter, I’ve seen Michele Bachmann referred to as a stalking horse for Mitt Romney, a surrogate attack dog who takes on the unpopular duties in exchange for reward later. But if she were an agent of the Romney campaign, why would she drop out so early? Why wouldn’t Romney keep her in the mix to attack his rivals to South Carolina and beyond?)

Tags: Fred Thompson , John McCain , Michele Bachmann , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney

Are Either Tonight’s Debate or the Ames Straw Poll Really That Decisive?


Over at the Des Moines Register, they’re convinced tonight’s debate could be a very big deal:

Just 36 hours after the debate, Iowans start to vote at the Iowa straw poll, where success hinges on self-motivated voters either hopping on a campaign bus at the crack of dawn or driving themselves across the state to Ames.

“It puts so much pressure on these candidates to perform well,” said Chuck Laudner, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa. “A bad performance has the real chance of sinking their straw poll numbers.”

Or, if a sleeper candidate knocks it out of the ballpark and impresses the political junkies, Friday’s post-debate dissection could reap straw poll votes, he said.

Question: Which will sway more votes at the straw poll: Tonight’s debate performance? Or which candidate has the best free food?

By the way, some think that without Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin* or even Jon Huntsman in attendance, turnout for this year’s poll will be lower than the last one, which was merely 14,302. In 2007 Romney won with 4,516. Turnout for the 2008 Iowa GOP caucus itself was 119,118, and Mike Huckabee ended up beating Romney by more than 10,000 votes.

In other words, it’s quite possible what we’ll see this weekend is the preference of an unrepresentative sample of about 12 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers.

* As noted below, Palin is in Iowa, and not far from the straw poll site, but is not officially competing in the straw poll. We’ll have to see if Ames attendees write her in anyway.

Tags: Ames Straw Poll , Debate , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney

Another Campaign Just Wasn’t Meant to Hucka-Bee


Bits and pieces from the first Morning Jolt of the week…

It Was Not Meant to Hucka-Bee

His heart wasn’t in it. And so the rest of him stayed out.

Politico summarizes, “Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said on Sunday he “would have made a fine president,” but added that he “was at peace” with his decision not to run for the White House in 2012. Huckabee also told Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” that he wasn’t yet prepared to endorse any of the other GOP candidates. “It really came down for me to a very personal, a very intimate, and as I explained last night, a spiritual decision,” Huckabee said during an appearance on Fox, where he has his own show. “You look at the political possibilities – frankly I don’t know that I’ll have a better chance, but I don’t rule anything out for the long-term future,” he said. “But I just somehow believed deep within me that it wasn’t the right time, it wasn’t meant to be.” Huckabee, a Christian conservative, announced on his show Saturday night that he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination, as he did in 2008. He had been doing well in the polls in Iowa and other early GOP contest states.”

Back in March, I noted that Huckabee was already booked for a cruise with Christian music groups in June.  I observed, “Obviously, at NR we heartily support political figures going on cruises. (Say, did you know about our post-election cruise?) There’s plenty of time between June and August 13 for campaigning in Iowa. Of course, as the previous winner of the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee would be expected to perform pretty well at Ames no matter how much time he spent in the state. But some of Huckabee’s comments have suggested he’s not eager to jump back into the fray in 2012, noting that he can’t afford to start early and would be giving up quite a few lucrative opportunities by running. And if your heart wasn’t really in another presidential campaign, wouldn’t you still be booking events in the summer of 2011?”

I guess missing Huckabee at the NRA Convention turned out to be not that big a deal after all, huh?

David Brody sees at least one, possibly two big winners: “[Tim ]Pawlenty is jumping for joy now that Huckabee is not in. If Huckabee had gotten in, he would have been the GOP frontrunner and many Evangelicals around the country would have moved directly into the Huckabee column. With Huckabee now in the Fox News studio rather than in Iowa and other states, the take here at The Brody File is that Tim Pawlenty has a real chance to pick up a lot of those Huckabee supporters. Pawlenty is an Evangelical (though a lot of people don’t know his story) and he has a common regular guy persona just like Huckabee. That combination will be attractive but it will be up to Pawlenty to bring them into his base without pandering. Evangelicals can smell pander. Michele Bachmann also has an opportunity here. If she decides to get in, she becomes even more potent in Iowa if she can pull some of those Huckabee votes into her column. With her ability to raise money, the Evangelical Bachmann is strengthened by Huckabee’s exit.”

ADDENDA: Another Illinois Democrat does her state proud: “After viewing photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky said there’s ‘no question’ in her mind that they should not be released to the general public because of their graphic nature. ‘These are pictures of a violent crime scene. This is a dead person. A dead Osama bin Laden,’ she said.”

A crime scene? What crime would that be, and who should be charged?

Tags: Mike Huckabee

Huckabee to Address Medical Suppliers May 23


NDC, Inc. is a company that “represents over 280 distributors, the largest organization of independent medical, surgical, dental and laboratory supply distributors in the United States.” They’re having their annual meeting/international exhibition May 22 through 24 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The keynote speaker will be . . . former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, talking about “government, healthcare reform, and his new book.”

Fox News has reportedly given Huckabee until the end of the month to decide on whether or not he wants to run for president.

If Huckabee wanted to debut with a blistering attack on Obamacare, an audience of hundreds or thousands of medical-supply-company workers — whose products are taxed extra under Obama’s new law — would make a good venue, no?

UPDATE: Fox News denies the report of the ultimatum to Huckabee.

Tags: Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee, at the NRA Convention


Family commitments required me to return from the NRA convention on Saturday morning, before potential presidential contender Mike Huckabee gave the convention’s keynote address. With the characteristic humility and gentle tone I’ve come to expect, Huckabee fans are wondering where my coverage of his speech is.

Video of Huckabee’s speech can be found here; all of the speeches of all of the participants, including Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and John Bolton, can be found here.

Tags: Mike Huckabee , NRA Convention

Words I Never Thought I Would Write: Trump Leads GOP 2012 Poll


Er… you’re hired?

 Donald Trump is now tied with Mike Huckabee for first place when Republicans are asked who they support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, according to a new national poll.

But while a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that the real estate mogul and reality TV star has nearly doubled his support since mid-March, it doesn’t mean he has smooth sailing ahead.

“More than four in ten Republicans say they would not like to see Trump toss his hat in the ring,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

What is this? A genuine desire to see a real estate developer in the White House? A gut-level appreciation for his blunt talk? A sign that name ID counts for everything at this point?

Tags: Donald Trump , Mike Huckabee

Everybody’s Got the Right Attitude For 2012


According to the commenters, I should not call attention to polls that have Obama sinking in Florida if the poll also indicates low levels of support for Sarah Palin, as it amounts to “anti-Palin propaganda.”

Also, a joke about Mike Huckabee’s home construction in Florida helping his polling in that state is ipso facto evidence that I’m a Mitt guy, even though I had no role in the 2008 magazine endorsement and didn’t vote for him (he withdrew before the Virginia primary).

Thanks for the helpful hints, everyone. The 2012 primaries are going to be awesome!

Tags: Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Sarah Palin

Huckaney? Romabee? Pawlenty?


I suspect this analogy, offered by a Campaign Spot reader, will make heads explode and somehow irritate supporters of all three:

“Tim Pawlenty is the Huck/Mitt love child — a telegenic blue state governor with a populist tone.”

Of course, now someone will accuse me of starting a love child rumor about both Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.

Tags: Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Tim Pawlenty

Obama’s Approval Rating Hits 43% in Florida


Mason-Dixon is out with a new poll in Florida, and the news isn’t very good for President Obama:

  • Overall, 43 percent of voters surveyed approved of Obama’s performance and 56 percent disapproved.
  • Only 34 percent of independent voters in Florida — always the key to winning — approve of Obama’s performance,
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee would beat the president in Florida if the election were held today.

They also asked Republican voters their choice in the 2012 field, and the results are a bit surprising: “The April 4-7 telephone poll found Romney slightly leading Huckabee among Republican primary voters, 23 percent to 18 percent. They were trailed by business magnate Donald Trump with 13 percent, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 11, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty with 8. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s support has plummeted since she was hailed as the newest GOP superstar three years ago. Only 5 percent of Republican voters said they would vote for her as the nominee, and she would lose overwhelmingly to Obama in Florida.”

UPDATE: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Huckabee is popular in Florida; he’s done so much for that state’s home construction industry.

Tags: Barack Obama , Donald Trump , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Sarah Palin

Mike Huckabee, Cruising in June 2011


Traditionally, the first presidential campaign event that means anything at all — and most would argue we’re stretching it – is the Ames Straw Poll, held the summer before a presidential election year, roughly six months before that state’s caucuses. This year, the Ames Straw Poll will be held August 13.

From June 5 through June 12, Mike Huckabee will be on the Alaska Freedom Cruise with several Christian music groups.

Now, obviously, at NR we heartily support political figures going on cruises. (Say, did you know about our post-election cruise?) There’s plenty of time between June and August 13 for campaigning in Iowa. Of course, as the previous winner of the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee would be expected to perform pretty well at Ames no matter how much time he spent in the state.

But some of Huckabee’s comments have suggested he’s not eager to jump back into the fray in 2012, noting that he can’t afford to start early and would be giving up quite a few lucrative opportunities by running. And if your heart wasn’t really in another presidential campaign, wouldn’t you still be booking events in the summer of 2011?

Tags: Mike Huckabee

Gallup Finds Huckabee, Bachmann Have Highest ‘Positive Intensity’


Most of these new numbers from Gallup are about what we would expect — a figure like Sarah Palin probably has very high favorable ratings among some Republicans and very high unfavorables among others. One might expect Huckabee to score a little lower, as he rankled some fiscal conservatives during his 2008 bid, but in this type of poll, I’ll bet his all-around likability carries him a long way. As we would expect, this early in the cycle, big and bold personalities are leading the field and the lesser-known technocrats are far behind. That’s nothing for them to worry about… yet.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads the field of possible GOP presidential candidates in “positive intensity” among Republicans nationwide with a score of +25 among Republicans who are familiar with him, followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with a score of +20. Huckabee is recognized by 87% of Republicans, compared with Bachmann’s 52%. A number of other possible Republican presidential candidates trail these two in Positive Intensity Scores, including Sarah Palin, who is the best known of the group.

These findings are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted between Feb. 28 and March 13 with more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide rating each of 12 potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Gallup now tracks these candidates’ images on a daily basis, and will report aggregated results on on a weekly basis.

Gallup asks Republicans whether they recognize each potential candidate and, for each one they recognize, whether they have a strongly favorable, favorable, unfavorable, or strongly unfavorable opinion of that person. Gallup calculates a “Positive Intensity Score” for each person rated, based on the difference between strongly favorable and strongly unfavorable opinions among those who are familiar with him or her. This score provides an indication of the intensity of support among a candidate’s base of followers at any given point in the campaign.

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Mike Huckabee

Candidates Don’t Always Make Good Pundits, and Vice Versa


Just thought I would expand my thought mentioned in Jonah’s column . . .

Each candidate has strengths and weaknesses, but one common problem, as my National Review colleague Jim Geraghty notes, is the growing phenomenon of the pundit-candidate. Gingrich and Huckabee (also Sarah Palin, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and radio host Herman Cain to name a few) have created cottage industries for themselves as commentators. That helps with name ID (and book sales), but it also overexposes and diminishes them by forcing them to comment at length on subjects where silence would be golden. Huckabee’s bizarre pandering to so-called birthers and to the Natalie Portman-haters’ caucus is a perfect example of the problem.

Ronald Reagan’s columns and radio commentaries were a key way for him to stay in the public eye between his 1976 and 1980 runs. But it was a wildly different media world then; unless someone attended a speech or they were written up in the national newsweeklies or daily newspapers, there was no way for the average American to encounter a potential candidate in an off-year. Over the years, we’ve seen more candidates jumping into punditry and pundits jumping into political office: Pat Buchanan’s presidential bids in between “McLaughlin Group” appearances; Jesse Jackson followed his presidential bids by hosting “Both Sides” on CNN from 1992 to 2000. Alan Keyes was better known as a talking head than as an ambassador when he launched his 1996 and 2000 bids.

In recent years, television show hosts Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Lou Dobbs, and Larry Kudlow have all flirted with running for Senate.

But the cross-pollination of pundits and presidential candidates gets ever more ubiquitous, and I would argue it’s not good for the candidates and not good for punditry, since the purposes of the two roles are at times contradictory. A presidential candidate’s purpose is to A) articulate their agenda and persuade people of its value and B) get elected; I’ll let you argue which one should come first. A pundit’s purpose is to illuminate and explain and perhaps entertain. Being good at one set of skills doesn’t always translate to the other set of skills.

Few presidential candidates have trouble getting coverage in an era of three 24/7 news channels (which cover quite a bit of political news), hundreds of talk-radio stations and programs, and — ahem — frequently updated campaign blogs. Now we live in a world where Politico reporters cover book signings. Candidates can hardly justify that they need to do this to stay in the public eye anymore; they may find the perches convenient and lucrative. (The positions also provide a handy excuse to turn down media requests from other channels and news sources.)

A candidate who is a paid on-air contributor with a news network gives up a bit of discretion, it would seem. A candidate with other forms of income can always say “no comment,” or a more refined “I just don’t have much to say about that. I haven’t thought about it.” It would be rather hard for any paid contributor to blow off a host’s question; after all, answering the questions and offering analysis and reaction is their job.

Tags: Mike Huckabee , Newt Gingrich , Punditry , Rick Santorum , Sarah Palin

Gallup: No GOP Frontrunner Yet, Which Is Rare


Gallup says that not having a clear presidential front-runner in the Republican party is historically abnormal:

“The wide-open battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — with nearly a three-way tie among Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney — is quite different from the typical pattern observed in past Republican nomination contests. In Gallup polling since 1952, Republican Party nomination races always featured a clear front-runner at this stage of the campaign, and in almost all cases, that front-runner ultimately won the nomination.”

It’s worth noting, however, that much of this chart is ancient history, when GOP candidates had names like “Romney” and “Bush.”

On a slightly more serious note, observe how many second-place candidates ended up not seriously competing for the nomination: Ford never formally declared in 1980, Dan Quayle never made a serious bid in 1996, citing health issues; Elizabeth Dole ended her run before any of the primaries in 2000. Some might argue that Rudy Giuliani’s run turned out to be not-so-serious last cycle.

Tags: Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Sarah Palin

Just Think of MSNBC’s Headaches if Ed Schultz Runs


A quick excerpt from the Thursday edition of Morning Jolt:

The Fox Caught the Newt, Then Let Him Go

You knew the fact that five potential Republican presidential candidates — Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and John Bolton — were under contract to Fox News Channel was going to be an issue sooner or later. If any of the commentators announced they were running, continued appearances would run afoul of the Equal Time rule. (You remember the brouhaha when Arnold Schwarzenegger first ran for governor and some complained showing his movies constituted free advertising; there was some grumbling about this issue regarding Fred Thompson’s Law & Order reruns.) As long as they weren’t announced candidates, Fox News Channel was in the clear with the FCC, but there was still the awkward appearance; the All-Stars on Special Report would be speculating about whether or not Palin would run, while she would be appearing later on the prime time shows and O’Reilly or Hannity or Van Sustren could just ask her. Heck, if they were talking about Huckabee, they could just go down the hall and ask him . . .

At Conservatives4Palin, Ian Lazaran writes, “While it’s certainly fair to infer from this news that Mike Huckabee has absolutely no intention to run for the presidency, I don’t think you can draw very many conclusions as to whether Governor Palin will run and when she will make an announcement. She has stated in the past in interviews she isn’t very likely to set up an exploratory committee. If she does run, she’d probably just formally jump into the race. That a Fox News executive believes she hasn’t shown a serious intention to form such a committee doesn’t tell us very much about her intentions because she wasn’t very likely to form one in the event she did decide to run for the presidency. As for timing, she wouldn’t need sixty days notice to let Fox News know that she has decided to run for the presidency. She could just let Fox News know about her plans tomorrow or at any time and her contractual relationship with Fox would end. I actually think this news explains why Newt Gingrich got some cold feet yesterday about announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee. He may not have wanted to forgo the income he received at Fox News by formally establishing an exploratory committee.”

Tags: John Bolton , Mike Huckabee , Newt Gingrich , Rick Santorum , Sarah Palin

How the 2012 GOP Field May Be Shaped By... Becky Skillman.


If you live outside Indiana, you probably have never heard of Becky Skillman. But she could end up having a far-reaching impact on the 2012 Republican field, through a fascinating domino effect.

Skillman is the Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, and she recently decided to not run for governor in 2012, citing health issues. Because she won’t be running as a Republican and Evan Bayh isn’t running on the Democrat side, the field appears to be clear for Congressman Mike Pence to run for the job of governor if he wants it more than he wants to run for president.

At Ace of Spades, Drew M. follows the dominoes: “Pence’s decision is probably a pretty big domino in the race. He seems to be a candidate that fits Sarah Palin’s criteria, so if he runs, she may not. Obviously, the reverse is true (unless another candidate steps up). Palin’s decision probably has an impact on whether or not Mike Huckabee runs, since it seems there’s a good bit of overlap in their voters. Of course all of that will have an impact on Mitt Romney’s chances.”

If Pence runs for governor instead of president, that probably brings in Palin. (I also have a feeling that we wouldn’t see both Pence and Daniels run. As Hoosiers, their network of supporters and donors overlap somewhat, and there might not be enough support or media oxygen for both of them, even though their styles are different.)

Would Huckabee would hesitate in the face of Palin? I had a chance to hang around with the former Arkansas governor in a Fox News green room recently, and he reinforced my sense that it’s impossible to not like Huckabee personally. I won’t get into any specifics, since I think it’s rude to quote casual conversations, but I’d say he seems pretty happy doing his television show. He said to me — as he’s said elsewhere — that he doesn’t want to see the GOP primary turn into a “demolition derby” that ends with a battered nominee running low on cash. Would the presence of Palin make the GOP primary rougher or more congenial? She certainly hasn’t minded throwing a few elbows at “blue bloods” and the like.

Tags: Mike Huckabee , Mike Pence , Mitt Romney , Sarah Palin

Where Are the Aspiring GOP Presidents on the Tax Deal?


A reader writes in:

Question: What do Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, John Thune, and Rick Santorum have in common?

Answer: Apparently, all have been moved to a secure undisclosed location since the announcement Monday night of Barack Obama’s so-called “compromise” tax deal. Not a peep has been heard from any Republican supposedly considering a run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. For more than sixty hours, they have remained silent.

Note to would-be leaders: The first one to go public in opposition to this “deal” is going to be on wall-to-wall cable TV, and — given that Tea Party leaders have announced their opposition to the “deal” — will earn major street cred with some voter groups that are going to have something to say about the 2012 nomination you seek.

In shorter, sweeter terms: If you want to be a leader . . . lead.

The reader isn’t quite right. I notice that on Twitter, Palin has retweeted a link to an interview by Sen. Jim DeMint expressing skepticism of the deal, and a comment from Jedediah Bila, saying, “Thank you, @JimDeMint - DeMint comes out against tax deal, says GOP must do ‘better than this’ - .’ That’s not explicit opposition, but certainly seems to lean that way.

John Thune said he has some concerns, but said on Hannity there’s a lot to like for Republicans in the deal:

I see nothing about this issue yet on the site for Romney’s PAC, nothing on, nothing on the site for Tim Pawlenty’s PAC, nothing on Huckabee’s site, or Santorum’s site.

Having said that, keep in mind that only Thune actually as a vote on this. And if these aspiring GOP figures like the deal, they may calculate that the endorsement of several aspiring Republican presidents might be enough to drive Democrats away from it . . .

UPDATE: This comment from Huckabee on Twitter today suggests he supports the deal: “If House Democrats end up blocking this tax deal – it proves AGAIN, they just don’t get it. Hurry up January.”

Tags: Haley Barbour , John Thune , Mike Huckabee , Mitch Daniels , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rick Santorum , Sarah Palin , Tim Pawlenty

Mike Huckabee Says He’ll Decide ‘Later, More than Earlier’


We can expect almost a year’s worth of speculation about whether Mike Huckabee is running for president; he says he won’t decide until late 2011.

He’s on a book tour right now for his Christmas book . . . and he has another book coming out, one more policy-oriented, in March 2011.

Upsides: As he has noted, Huckabee polls pretty competitively against Obama, and has done so pretty consistently. He clearly has a base that loves him; check out that line standing in cold weather outside that Sarasota bookstore. He obviously would be the favorite to win Iowa again. His charisma on the stump and on camera appear to be as strong as ever.

Downsides: How many GOP primary voters does Huckabee win over who weren’t in his corner last time around? Has he really done anything to address what GOP primary voters didn’t like about him last time? Doesn’t the current preeminence of economic and fiscal issues hurt a governor widely perceived as a big-government conservative? At what point do other candidates start complaining about his Fox News Channel weekend show constituting free advertising?

And if Sarah Palin runs, how many Mike Huckabee supporters jump over to her bandwagon?

Tags: Mike Huckabee


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