Is Huck still running for '08 bid, or '12?
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
Within the campaign, theres a degree of optimism
about his chances of preventing John McCain from
garnering the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the
Republican nomination. But Huckabees supporters are
also now embracing what they see as his enhanced
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, well 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.
Hes got a long way to go before his political career
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 cycles
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. Hes a young
man. And hes run the kind of race that has not burned
bridges or torn apart the party.
As McCains success has underscored, the GOP has its
own tradition of political primogeniture: rewarding he
who is next in line for the partys nomination. Dating
back to Ronald Reagans 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, Huckabees 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 wouldnt receive had he dropped out.
Carter, a native Texan, noted that he had friends from
back home who were just now tuning into the states
March 4 primary and asking him how to get a yard sign.
You dont want to discourage that and say its 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 cant win.
Its 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 hes spent considerable
time raising cash and preaching in friendly churches,
could be determinative. If he doesnt do well there,
its kind of a long march, Rollins said. Texas is
really where were going to focus on.
Even if Huckabee picks up delegates in Texas, however,
his support will likely come from the same demographic
where hes found success before thus reinforcing
perceptions about his inherent weakness for future
Because for all the buzz hes created since his
triumph in Iowa, Huckabees success has largely been
confined to just a slice of the GOP electorate
Christian conservatives. Beyond the Hawkeye state,
hes 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, hes 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 hes
ending his campaign by driving himself into the corner
that he avoided as governor, casting himself as a
one-dimensional, religious-right figure. Hes decided
to define himself as somebody who doesnt 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
Hes certainly going to be the main spokesman for
values voters in the Republican coalition, said
In conversations theyve had, Hutchinson said Huckabee
hasnt made clear what he wants to do next. But
Huckabee indicated what he doesnt 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, hed 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, doesnt really know whats
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 hes 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. Hes
always needed work.
And I think he thought he could be a bigger deal if
he stayed in it for a while.
- 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.
- 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 email@example.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.