So, on his TV show yesterday, Mike Huckabee more or less announces his presidential bid. As Jeb Bush before him, technically this is an exploratory move not and actual announcement, but seriously? The guy just gave up his major income source – That’s a commitment. His announcement made a lot more press than Santorum, but not so much as Jeb Bush. That’s about right. Look for Huckabee to make a big splash, but to little effect.
Huckabee was one of the key elements that cost Romney the nomination in 2008. He did so by overtly playing the Mormon card in a NYTimes interview in the run up to Iowa; therefore won Iowa, and robbed Romney of momentum he counted on to carry himself through. When I reviewed our in-the-moment coverage of the interview, I found I had written this little gem about the Huckabee candidacy:
It’s the non-substantive campaign. Elect a rock star. I thought the Democrats were the only ones that did this….
I cannot see anything, eight years later to change my analysis. I find Huckabee’s timing interesting. He sat out 2012 (After 2008 I am sure he did not want to compete with Romney again.), and now intends to be the GOP rock star in the tail of the ultimate rock star presidential comet on the Democratic side. He will be a media star. Why?
Well, for one he is willing to do things like play the Mormon card. In other words he’ll give the press what they want. Heck, he is almost by definition the pastiche of a GOP candidate that the media thinks a GOP candidate actually is – a little nutty religiously, demonstrably somewhat bigoted, Southern, white, and currently overweight. In places like MSNBC land (assuming they hang on through 2016) he will be THE GOP candidate – just not so much with actual GOP primary voters. He might win a few, but the nomination? Not likely.
I believe in sacred callings, I really do, but this is how Huckabee announced he was leaving his show yesterday, “But I also realize that God hasn’t put me on Earth just to have a good time or to make a good living but rather God’s put me on Earth to try to make a good life.” Invoking the Almighty as a reason to run for president is simply asking to be ridiculed by the left and portrayed as a religious nut bar. Romney never said anything remotely like that, and he was the one that was, supposedly, from the religion that bred such religious nutcases. George W. Bush, a man of deep personal religious devotion often discussed his faith but never claimed divine calling to the White House. Is the presidency even necessary to “make a good life”?
Make no mistake, Huckabee has considerable political gifts; that is why he will win a few. But with voters truly fed-up with a president of seemingly enormous political skill and no substance, I find it hard to believe they will bite on this bit of bait. He should have more resources than he had in 2008. For one thing he personally has much more personal wealth, TV will do that. TV should also give him a more deeply committed campaign core of volunteers than he enjoyed in 2008. I expect him to perform better than he did in 2008, but that is still not winning, despite his much ballyhooed “second place.”
In the end, this saddens me. This is part of politics as circus. Our nation is in deep, deep trouble. We need serious candidates with serious solutions to serious issues. We need a candidate that will elevate the voting public, not cater to their bias and thirst for infotainment. There will be candidates, Santorum for example, that are there to represent a certain point-of-view. They really are not there to win, but to make sure that a given constituency in the party has a voice. That’s an act of generosity and sacrifice. But then there are those that are there to boost their speaking fees, or because they have an over-inflated view of their own importance. It is plain before our eyes what happens when the public takes seriously such candidates.
Huckabee will be part of shaping this race. 2008 proved he has that capability. The question is will he use that capability to the betterment of the nation? He did not in 2008. He handed us John McCain – a weak candidate. Could Romney have beaten Obama in 2008? Probably not, if he could not beat him in 2012, it is unlikely that he could have beaten in in ’08 when Obama was an entirely unknown quantity. But I do believe Romney would have left Republicans in a stronger position after the ’08 election than McCain did.
I will conclude this post by asking a simple question about the Megan Keely clip below. Faux Pas or Freudian Slip?