Huckabee's Hedge
11-30-2009
I am curious about why former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee picked yesterday to say that he is now less likely to run for president in 2012. He could have simply said that he will consider that decision more closely at some time in the future.  While it is tempting to put Huckabee’s comments in the context of his surprising connection to the suspect in the tragic police shooting in Seattle, my understanding of the timeline of events is that the comments came first. If today’s reaction is any indication, however, that tragic situation could have the same consequence for his candidacy in the end.
 
I can think of two possibilities for why Huckabee is pulling back on his presidential ambitions at this moment. We could take him at his word that he is simply having too much fun to deal with the trials and tribulations of a presidential run (and he just may not like his chances). As I noted in a recent post about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a politician may actually prefer to nurture the ongoing political power, public relevance, and personal revenue that goes along with establishing oneself as a leader of a particular grassroots constituency, rather than ride the nomination roller coaster. In the case of both former governors, I am of course talking about their popularity among social and religious conservatives.
 
Alternatively, Huckabee may still harbor presidential ambitions, but is increasingly wary of his frontrunner status in a lot of the early polling for the Republican nomination in 2012. With the next presidential election still three years away, it is likely that the actual nomination contest will be driven by personalities and political dynamics that are not yet obvious to political observers. Being branded the frontrunner now only leaves one direction for a candidate to move, and that direction is down. So, Huckabee could be downplaying his presidential aspirations in the short-term, in order to generate fresh momentum later when it actually matters. This explanation seems less plausible to me than the first one. In any event, the sad events in Seattle could make any strategic calculations by Huckabee moot and his comments yesterday eerily prescient.


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