Mike Huckabee has made an odd decision:
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said on Saturday that he was leaving his weekly Fox News show so he can explore a 2016 presidential bid.
My first response to this news was the same as when I heard talk of this idea last year: why? I still don’t have a good answer. I understand that conservative ex-politicians have to keep their name in circulation, and running for president gives them a way to do that, but Huckabee already successfully did that seven years ago. Giving up his show in order to run another shoestring, losing campaign is a strange choice, and it is made even stranger when we consider that the 2016 field is sure to be more competitive than the one he would have faced in 2012. If there was a time for another Huckabee run, it was in the 2012 cycle. He passed up his best opportunity to compete for the nomination then, and now he is thinking about getting in when his chances of winning are very poor.
It’s always possible that Huckabee could once again surprise everyone and become a very competitive candidate, but he still faces all of the limitations that constrained him in 2007-08. Despite being much better-known nationally than he was last time, he likely remains a factional and regional candidate. He will probably poll well in Iowa and in many Southern states, and he could even win a few contests. However, his chances of winning anywhere are much lower than they were in ’08 because he will probably be running against many other Southerners. In 2008, he was preferred candidate of evangelicals in most places, but there were never enough of them in non-Southern primaries to make him competitive. This time around there will be a lot more competition for evangelical voters, and he won’t have the same automatic appeal to these voters that he did when his main opponents were Romney and McCain.
Huckabee has campaigned more recently than Jeb Bush, but seven years is still a long time to be away from running for office. In the meantime, Huckabee has been more involved than Bush in contemporary political debates through his show, but that also potentially provides other Republican candidates and Democratic operatives a huge archive of material to use against him. Because he was always a long-shot, insurgent candidate in 2008, he benefited from mostly positive coverage that didn’t look very closely at his record. His record is sure to come under greater scrutiny, and there are plenty of people inside the GOP that would be only too happy to draw attention to things that Huckabee doesn’t want to advertise to a Republican primary electorate.
Huckabee is vaguely populist on economics in affect if not on policy, and that causes pro-corporate Republicans to break out in hives. He openly dislikes libertarians, and the feeling is mutual. Though he does his best to take hard-line positions on most foreign policy issues, he doesn’t offer the hard-liners anything they can’t already get from someone else, and he has no foreign policy experience worth mentioning. As an evangelical and former preacher, Huckabee also clashes culturally with much of the party’s donor and pundit class. Last time, many movement conservatives could barely conceal their contempt for Huckabee’s background, and I imagine this time around there will be no attempt to conceal it. Huckabee is in for a bruising, and unrewarding presidential campaign. It makes no sense why he would want to do this.