Short answer? Nobody knows at this stage. Not even former Governor Mike Huckabee. Well, maybe he knows at some unconscious level.
Yes, he is going through the motions. He is visiting with supporters in Iowa, where he leads the field in the latest poll. And he has made trips to South Carolina. He will be back to both places for events again this Spring. He has mended fences with Paul Pressler and the conservative crowd of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. Their support of Fred Tompson in South Carolina, arguably, cost Huckabee the GOP nomination in 2008. Yes, he has been connecting with evangelical leaders for the last six years, leaders he ignored last time around. But that is all work he has to do to keep the option open. It doesn’t mean he will run.
Republicans are famous for sending “the next man in,” that is, selecting the candidate who has earned his turn. Nixon,
Ford, Reagan, Bush, Dole, McCain all benefited from that imagination deprived process. And many would say that Huckabee is the next man on the list. But the world “it is a changin.” Not many see Hukabee beating Hillary Clinton and the national media in a 2016 fall election showdown.
In the race for the GOP nomination, Huckabee will have FOX NEWS as a friend. They may not fall all over him like they did Giuliani and Christie but at least they won’t actively try to destroy him. Some at FOX will probably now tilt to Paul Ryan but Huckabee will get his moments in the sun.
Huckabee’s problem has always been money. Organically, the former governor of Arkansas will be able to raise more money on the stump this time, because he is a television celebrity. He won’t need Chuck Norris to tag along. People will pluck down $1,000 for a picture with just him alone, the FOX NEWS star.
But there will still be a gap. Evangelicals give to World Vision, Convoy of Hope, their local church and not much is left over for political candidates. Specifically he needs a big donor, someone who will chuck in a few million to a Huckabee super pak. Without it he is dead in the water. Rand Paul will have it. So will Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan. To look at it another way, Governor Huckabee is only ONE person away from making a strong run at the GOP nomination. He just needs one. But that one must be a multi-millionaire.
It may be a temptation for someone to take. History is full of things that turned out differently. Hillary Clinton is not guaranteed the White House. Just ask President Dewey, or President Muskie, or President Hart. Anything can happen. And Huckabee would be there to pick up the pieces and his billionaire would be at the pinnacle with him, like Raymond Tusk.
He needs for Sarah Palin to stay out of the race. She might get to thinking that a run would be a good career move. Like Rick Perry, she may want to get into the debates to win back some intellectual respect. Her involvement would suck a lot of air out of a Huckabee presidential campaign.
Then there is Karl Rove. He and his powerful pak will be watching. Ready to take out Huckabee if he gets too close.
Perhaps the best evidence of Huckabee’s chances are two numbers. The presidential preference polls, which have him as the GOP leader. And the bathroom scales.
If the numbers continue to climb in the GOP polls he will have to run. It is a case of “good stewardship.” A Southerner, raised with the Protestant work ethic cannot let such a moment pass without taking action.
But if the numbers continue to climb on the bathroom scale his subconscious may be saying, “Don’t do this to me Mike. You are rich and famous already and you won’t win.”
This latter process can be easy for all of us to track. Just keep Googling for the latest pictures. If the Governor starts getting trim in spite of all that good food and the difficulty in exercising when you are living on the road, well, his subconscious might be saying, “Get with it Mike. We’re going to do this things with or without you.”
Mike Huckabee can run but he can’t hide.