The race to be the leading social conservative in the 2016 Republican primary is on. And some familiar faces are in the running.
The Washington Post reports today that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, is making serious moves towards a presidential run: Scouting for real estate for headquarters, scheduling meetings with top conservative donors, forming an organization that is hiring political operatives. His daughter Sarah even told the Post, “He is personally engaged and more aggressive in taking on meetings. He can’t wait to get back to South Carolina and Iowa.”
The open question had been whether Huckabee would forgo running again, perhaps preferring his lucrative life as a Fox News talk show host, with a home base in Florida and the occasional campaign foray on behalf of Republicans (and for Personhood amendments).
Huckabee is set to release a book called "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy" in January, which he described to the Northwest Florida Daily News as follows: “It’s really just a catchy way of saying the part of America where the ownership of the gun is not frightening. People do understand what grits are and you can actually order them in a restaurant and God is not something that people in polite company wouldn’t talk about.”
Jostling to fill a similar role in the Republican primary will be Rick Santorum, who narrowly won the Iowa caucuses -- a contest largely driven by social conservatives -- in 2012. Santorum is currently touring the country promoting his film, “One Generation Away,” and comparing the status of Christians in American society to Nazi Germany. (“You wonder sometimes well why didn't the Jews see this and move? It was unfathomable to them that in a country like [Germany] that could happen. Same thing here, you think it's just impossible for that to happen in America,” Santorum recently told the Christian Post.) Santorum also signaled his intentions by giving a foreign policy speech at Liberty University last week in which he said both Bush and Obama had “given all Muslims a pass.”
Of course, no GOP candidate will run without seeking the blessing of social conservatives, as other hopefuls like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have long done. Outgoing Texas governor Rick Perry and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal are also popular with social conservatives. The 2016 field truly is wide open.