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Is Huck still running for '08 bid, or '12?

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8637.html Is Huck still running for 08 bid, or 12? By: Jonathan Martin Feb 23, 2008 06:44 AM EST Mike Huckabee is
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 23, 2008

      Is Huck still running for '08 bid, or '12?

      By: Jonathan Martin
      Feb 23, 2008 06:44 AM EST

      Mike Huckabee is technically still running for
      president, but increasingly his bid is aimed at
      strengthening his public profile for the next stage in
      his career.

      Within the campaign, there’s a degree of optimism
      about his chances of preventing John McCain from
      garnering the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the
      Republican nomination. But Huckabee’s supporters are
      also now embracing what they see as his enhanced
      future prospects.

      As they see it, the relative success of his longshot
      bid — as well as his finish as the unquestioned
      second-to-last man standing — will grant the former
      Arkansas governor a visible platform and put him at
      the top of the candidate list should he choose to run
      again in 2012 or 2016.

      “At end of day, we’ll do whatever we can to help John
      McCain in the fall,” said Huckabee strategist Ed
      Rollins. “If he wins, great. If not, the game starts
      all over again.”

      And even if McCain does win in November, Rollins noted
      that the Arizonan will already be 72 years old.

      “It may be open again in four years. And Mike is 51.
      He’s got a long way to go before his political career
      is over.”

      Former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ariz.), a top Huckabee
      ally and frequent surrogate, is not giving up hope on
      this year. But he also suggested that surviving well
      into the primary season would make this cycle’s
      darkhorse a front-runner for the next time around the

      “The Republican Party has been kind to second-place
      finishes in the past,” Hutchinson said. “He’s a young
      man. And he’s run the kind of race that has not burned
      bridges or torn apart the party.”

      As McCain’s success has underscored, the GOP has its
      own tradition of political primogeniture: rewarding he
      who is next in line for the party’s nomination. Dating
      back to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 challenge of Gerald Ford
      — a race that Huckabee now frequently cites — that
      candidate has typically been somebody who has run and
      fallen short in the past.

      “Huckabee is playing for second,” said Republican
      strategist Craig Shirley, a McCain backer and author
      of a book on the 1976 presidential race. “He wants the
      story written that he came in second to McCain and not
      Mitt Romney. That way he will have what he believes is
      the more legitimate claim to be the heir apparent for
      the GOP nomination, and not Romney, in 2012 or 2016.”

      In effect, Huckabee’s continued campaign is as much
      about early jockeying for the next GOP contest as it
      is a last-ditch effort at this one.

      “In the long term, staying in will help him more than
      it will hurt him,” argued Joe Carter, an aide at the
      Family Research Council who briefly worked for
      Huckabee last year.

      To the casual voter in states that are just now
      holding contests, the former governor and Baptist
      preacher is just now making his public debut and, in a
      two-man race, garnering the sort of valuable exposure
      that he wouldn’t receive had he dropped out.

      Carter, a native Texan, noted that he had friends from
      back home who were just now tuning into the state’s
      March 4 primary and asking him how to get a yard sign.
      “You don’t want to discourage that and say it’s too
      late,” he said.

      Still, Carter acknowledged that Huckabee has to be
      mindful about the point at which he wears out his
      welcome with the party rank-and-file by remaining in a
      race he can’t win.

      “It’s a balancing act,” Carter said, predicting that
      Huckabee will take his cue from the results in Texas.

      Rollins acknowledged that the Lone Star State, where
      Huckabee once lived and where he’s spent considerable
      time raising cash and preaching in friendly churches,
      could be determinative. “If he doesn’t do well there,
      it’s kind of a long march,” Rollins said. “Texas is
      really where we’re going to focus on.”

      Even if Huckabee picks up delegates in Texas, however,
      his support will likely come from the same demographic
      where he’s found success before — thus reinforcing
      perceptions about his inherent weakness for future

      Because for all the buzz he’s created since his
      triumph in Iowa, Huckabee’s success has largely been
      confined to just a slice of the GOP electorate —
      Christian conservatives. Beyond the Hawkeye state,
      he’s only run well in the South. And in that region,
      his strength has been limited to rural areas where
      there tend to be more evangelicals. In the more
      cosmopolitan urban or suburban areas of most every
      state, inside and outside the South, he’s gotten

      “Here was a guy that had tremendous success in defying
      the stereotype as a preacher-politician,” noted Max
      Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times and a longtime
      Huckabee critic. “He was viewed as something of a
      moderate and had some crossover appeal. Now he’s
      ending his campaign by driving himself into the corner
      that he avoided as governor, casting himself as a
      one-dimensional, religious-right figure. He’s decided
      to define himself as somebody who doesn’t have as
      broad an appeal.”

      Huckabee backers, however, suggest that his appeal to
      Christian conservatives could also position him well
      should he want to pursue a leadership role in that

      “He’s certainly going to be the main spokesman for
      values voters in the Republican coalition,” said

      In conversations they’ve had, Hutchinson said Huckabee
      hasn’t made clear what he wants to do next. But
      Huckabee indicated what he doesn’t want to do: take
      either a Cabinet post or run for office in Arkansas.

      The alternative, then, could be to pursue a hybrid
      path between those pursued by Reagan and by
      conservative commentator Pat Buchanan.

      Just as Reagan did after his ’76 run, Huckabee could
      step up his presence on the rubber chicken circuit and
      burnish his policy credentials by writing and offering
      commentary on the side in advance of another run.
      Given his near-constant cable news presence, Huckabee
      also could formalize a more-permanent role on TV —
      like Buchanan did in between his 1988 and 1992 runs.
      Should he want to run again, he’d have a nice platform
      from which to get his message out. But should he
      decide to capitalize on his affable persona and
      embrace punditry, he could just stick on the tube.
      (Or, as Buchanan has proved, he could do both.)

      Another option would be to create his own political
      entity, from which he could draw a paycheck (an
      important factor for a politician who never made much
      money) and use it to make permanent his presence on
      the public landscape.

      “He needs something like an Empower America,” said
      Carter, citing the think tank created by Jack Kemp.
      “He needs to come here and make some friends. That
      hurt him this time — nobody in D.C. really knew him.”

      Huckabee, by all accounts, doesn’t really know what’s
      next. “I have nothing else to do,” he joked to
      reporters at the Conservative Political Action

      One longtime Huckabee watcher thinks that there is
      some truth to that.

      “I think he’s looking for a high profile and a job,”
      said John Brummett, columnist for the Arkansas News
      and a veteran of the Little Rock press corps. “He’s
      always needed work.”

      “And I think he thought he could be a bigger deal if
      he stayed in it for a while.”
    • Ram Lau
      Is the future of the Republican Party that dire? I d think they probably want a fresher face like John Sununu instead, but only if he can keep his Senate seat
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 23, 2008
        Is the future of the Republican Party that dire? I'd think they
        probably want a fresher face like John Sununu instead, but only if he
        can keep his Senate seat this November.
      • greg
        I agree that that would be a better strategy for them, but they do have a history of often nominating the person who came in second last time around. Romney
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 24, 2008
          I agree that that would be a better strategy for them, but they do
          have a history of often nominating the person who came in second last
          time around. Romney and Huckabee will probably both try to lay claim
          to that title. Unless, of course, by some chance McCain wins this
          year. Then his running mate (presuming its not Romney or Huckabee)
          might have a leg up on either of them. Who else that dropped out this
          year might try again? I doubt Giuliani. Some of the others might after
          some time in a McCain cabinet (which I still doubt will ever see the
          light of day). Who that didn't run this time might in 2012 or 2016? I
          suppose we could also ask that about the Democrats.

          --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "Ram Lau" <ramlau@...> wrote:
          > Is the future of the Republican Party that dire? I'd think they
          > probably want a fresher face like John Sununu instead, but only if he
          > can keep his Senate seat this November.
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