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The Dreariness of Huckabee 2016

Michael Brendan Dougherty looks forward to a Huckabee campaign:

The most fascinating question to my mind is which of the other viable 2016 GOP candidates Mike Huckabee will dislike the most. He is a capable assassin. In 2008, his distaste for Romney was obvious — and often hilarious….Huckabee did more than anyone to create a McCain comeback, certainly more than McCain himself.

Huckabee’s debate performances may still be entertaining from time to time, but he won’t have the opportunity to set up the same sort of tag-teaming arrangement that he had with McCain against Romney. He was a “capable assassin” because the main competition he had for anti-Romney conservative votes was Fred Thompson, whose 2008 campaign was so dull and uninspired that even the candidate seemed bored by it. This time around he will likely be caught in a scrum of maybe a dozen other candidates, at least half of whom would make equally or more plausible nominees than Huckabee.

Instead of being the amusing gadfly that helps the frontrunner to win, he will presumably be trying to establish himself as a major contender. That always makes a candidate less inclined to “let it rip.” In 2008, he was the insurgent upstart who overcame a vastly better-funded Romney in Iowa. Now he is the one that the other lesser-known candidates will be seeking to defeat there. That is probably going to make for a more defensive and scripted campaign that could make the second Huckabee run a much drearier affair than anyone imagines possible. He might strongly dislike one candidate or the other, but the vote is going to be split so many different ways that Huckabee’s contempt and clever barbs will matter much less.

That leaves us with the campaign’s overall entertainment value, which I suspect will also be significantly reduced. As Huckabee has conformed to the Fox News mold, he is still capable of delivering a few punchlines, but he has otherwise become very predictable. There are only so many zingers and substitutes for serious argument that a candidate can fall back on before the entire act seems tired and unappealing. That may please his loyal viewers, but it doesn’t give the rest of us much to look forward to in the primaries.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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