When looking at the wide-open Republican presidential field, Mike Huckabee is often overlooked by Beltway insiders, but among GOP voters, the former Arkansas governor has remained a top candidate. Huckabee may not generate much “buzz,” but in recent polls, he routinely enjoys more support than would-be candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rick Perry.
But does Huckabee want to run? In 2012, he enjoyed quite a bit of support – rumor has it, White House insiders saw him as a credible threat – before withdrawing from consideration. As a new cycle gets underway, however, the Arkansan seems far more interested.
After months of speculation, Mike Huckabee announced Saturday that he’s calling his TV show quits in order to explore the possibility of another presidential run.The final show of Huckabee aired Saturday at 8 pm ET on Fox News. The former preacher and Arkansas governor took up hosting the weekend cable show in 2008 after dropping his campaign for the Republican nomination.
Online, Huckabee added, “I won’t make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015, but the continued chatter has put Fox News into a position that is not fair to them.” He hasn’t created an exploratory committee, though he said he intends to “openly talk with potential donors and supporters and gauge support.”
It’s easy to imagine Huckabee faring well among social conservatives – Rick Santorum, who appealed to this constituency in 2012, was no doubt disappointed by Huckabee’s announcement on Saturday – but as he learned during his first failed bid at national office, it’s a fairly narrow base of support.
Indeed, for all of the former governor’s public notoriety and early support in national polls, Huckabee, who hasn’t run a successful campaign in over 12 years, is arguably quite weak.
For one thing, the party has moved much further to the far-right in recent years, and Huckabee will likely have a hard time shaking his record – which includes tax increases, support for undocumented immigrants, and an endorsement for Common Core education standards. For much of the party, these are deal-breakers.
For another, the Arkansas Republican hasn’t exactly spent his time away from public office well. There was the odd business venture in which Huckabee sold animated conservative propaganda, which was soon followed by a sketchy online operation in which Huckabee used his mailing list to “blast out links to heart-disease fixes and can’t-miss annuities.”
Indeed, Huckabee’s lucrative spam operation remains ongoing – as recently as Saturday, just hours before his on-air announcement, Huckabee sent out “a sponsored message about food hoarding.”
But even if we put all of this aside, many of Huckabee’s views are so outrageously right-wing, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for him to appeal to a broad audience. On gun violence, Huckabee blamed the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre on the lack of government-sponsored school prayer. On women’s issues, Huckabee has endorsed the belief that “a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband,” and he’s referred to birth-control pills as “abortion pills.”
Let’s also not forget that during his tenure as governor, Huckabee wrote a ridiculous book that equated environmentalism with pornography and homosexuality with necrophilia. Indeed, he’s reserved some of his most over-the-top vitriol for gay people.
And for all the perceptions about Huckabee’s jovial persona, it’s important not to overlook an ugly mean streak. Huckabee has been a birther, falsely claiming that President Obama “grew up in Kenya”; he endorsed the “death panel” garbage; and in August 2009, he argued on his radio show that the Affordable Care Act would have forced Ted Kennedy to commit suicide were the celebrated senator not already dead.
Ed Kilgore argued at the time, “This despicable rant should disqualify Mike Huckabee from any further liberal sympathy, no matter how much he tries to joke or rock-n-roll his way back into mainstream acceptability.”
We’ll find out soon enough whether, and to what extent, Huckabee is serious about a national campaign, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if his interest was less in the White House and more in parlaying another failed campaign into higher speaker fees and a more profitable media platform.