Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee yesterday declared his intention to seek the Presidency of the United States. The media immediately seized on Huckabee as the “Christian” in the race — editorially pigeonholing Huckabee. They have done so at their own peril. Huckabee will prove himself far deeper and more expansive on issues than the media wants to believe.
To be sure, Huckabee is a former minister, but then all the candidates for the GOP nomination are Christians. Huckabee, however, does not intend to be the “Jesus Freak” in the race. He intends to be the populist for the blue collar voters. His ministerial background doesn’t place him as the “Jesus Freak” in the race. It places him as one of the more capable of reaching the downtrodden, the blue collar, and the disaffected.
Huckabee knows how to use Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to talk to cultural conservatives about what is happening in society, but he also knows how to use the Good Samaritan as a way to talk about his view on the role of government to the masses.
In 2012, I suggested to the Governor that he should run again. In fact, I firmly believe that had Mike Huckabee run in 2012, he would not only have been the Republican nominee, but he would have beaten the President. I genuinely believe that. A Huckabee candidacy, though not my first choice, would have been so unorthodox in the general election, it would have confounded Team Obama and not ceded ground on the “who cares about me” exit polling question. Likewise, Huckabee would not have been caught on tape talking about the 47% sounding negative.
While I think Huckabee would have gone all the way in 2012, I am not sure what his reason for running is this time. He is now, like Bush, a candidate from yesterday. His big swing was 2008. That Presidential run is where he made his name, not 2012.
Governor Huckabee is going to have to explain why him. The issues he cares about are going to get talked about by others. The populist message he brings is already being trotted out by the other candidates. Does he really think he can do it better than them? Perhaps he can.
But Governor Huckabee is going to have to make that case. I have no doubt he is ready to give it a try. Huckabee is an interesting candidate because of what he is and also what he is not. He is the former minister turned Governor turned radio and television host who, through the ups and downs of his own life knows how to connect to the middle class. He is not the roll back government, Club for Growth fiscal conservative he might like you to think he is.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Governor Huckabee can stake out a claim for himself in a race with younger, fresher faces intent on capturing the ground he stood on in 2008 and expanding it while Huckabee tries the same. That opens us to one of the most intriguing questions I have for Campaign 2016 — can Huckabee’s speechifying outshine [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s. It is going to be interested.