Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas turned news commentator, started his campaign solidly with a well-publicized announcement on Tuesday that he is a presidential candidate in the 2016 election. Many fans were waiting to hear the news and his chances could not be better to actually win.
While many will forever see Huckabee as a lesser candidate with little to no chance of winning, there are indications that he is prepared for such a time as this. Eight years of a Democratic president makes a Republican win easier, based on statistics showing that voters tend to vote for the opposite party after two presidential terms. This fact could make Republicans willing to try a riskier nomination rather than stay in the safe moderate zone, as the establishment faction of the party did in 2012 with Mitt Romney, during the GOP convention.
Huckabee has political experience. He was governor for eight years in a state that continuously had a balanced budget. Arkansas is in the South and that carries a certain amount of favor among larger, conservative states with a significant voter base. He is conservative on standard issues of debate like abortion, immigration and guns. However, he has one distinct difference. He wants to do away with the Internal Revenue Service, eliminate income taxes and establish a national sales tax called the Fair Tax. That idea has been bubbling in recent years and most Americans, even moderate ones, hate the IRS and taxes.
Huckabee did well – to the surprise of many in the mainstream media – in the 2008 Iowa Straw Poll coming in second place with 18 percent of the vote. That gave him momentum to continue on for a time as well as great publicity. He also took the lead in the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses with 34 percent of the vote with eventual presidential nominee Romney receiving only 25 percent. Huckabee also did well in the New Hampshire and Michigan primaries, finishing in third place in both. The governor had success in the South Carolina primary, finishing second, and in the Florida primary where he finished fourth. He won the first Super Tuesday election in taking West Virigina with 52 percent of the electorate and won 60 percent of the votes cast in the Kansas Republican caucuses. Several polls from 2009, including the CNN-Opinion Research National Poll, put Huckabee as a presidential favorite for 2012.
Huckabee has always handled interviews well with a common sense, dignified response and a touch of humor. Most reporters, even those in mainstream media, seem to like him. He had a show for the past seven years in which he had a chance to plug his ideas and his personality weekly without spending money on advertising. Some of his comments put him in the news spotlight. He published a book earlier this year titled God, Guns, Grits and Gravy and it has done well landing a spot on several bestseller lists including those of the the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly. He has built his brand well over the past seven years, All of that gives him some advantage over others in the race that are not as well known.
However, there is one primary reason that Huckabee stands a great chance at winning the candidacy. Voters will cast a ballot, volunteer or donate to his campaign out of a push back motivation. The past seven years has seen little hope and a lot of changes that have made many grassroots Americans uncomfortable and, to some degree, fearful of the future. Issues like gay marriage, partial birth abortion, terrorism on American soil, a political atmosphere to support Muslims through cultural diversity programs, mandates to limit Christians in public speech, in private business decisions and in the military are all a part of the cultural shift narrative. These events are happening more frequently than ever and the public is growing weary of it. While President Barack Obama is not responsible for every cultural shift, his appointments and associations have certainly contributed. The public reaction is to vote the polar opposite. That means supporting the most conservative, Christian candidate available. To date, that is Huckabee.
The Republican Party has, for the past two presidential election cycles, ignored conservative Christians and have pushed moderate candidates John McCain and Romney. The fact that both elections were lost, in part due to non-interest from conservatives who stayed home, and the cultural issues affecting the country make the situation ripe for a public push for an evangelical darling like Huckabee to take center stage. Most evangelicals believe the only solution to all of America’s problems is to turn back to God and the best way to do that is by electing a president who is clearly Christian. The fact that Huckabee was once a Baptist minister adds to his spiritual credibility when the faith walk of other candidates is still a bit vague. The evangelical base is a large part of the GOP and Republican leaders are about to find out just how large.
Huckabee, for many, represents the push back against the culture war. He also represents the values that many Americans hold, although many will not talk about those values in public or in polls because of political correctness. He is not extreme in his personality or presentation. He is likable, has experience and is well known. He plays a guitar to rock songs. Huckabee can not only run well in the 2016 election, but can win.
Opinion by Melody Dareing
Photo by Gage Skidmore – Creativecommons Flickr license