He’s one of the most well-liked and well-known national figures in the Republican Party. His name is Mike Huckabee. And make no mistake, he’s running for president in 2016.
As someone that championed his candidacy back when I was just a local host during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, and has kept in contact with him since then (I carry an endorsement from Huckabee on my website), I am both excited and concerned about the prospect of him running again.
I’m excited about Huckabee as a potential standard-bearer because:
1) His likeability potential is sky-high, and if you think that doesn’t matter you haven’t been paying attention to American presidential elections since the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960.
2) He's a populist Republican who can't be branded a corporate elitist. He's not a "47%" kind of guy. The reality is social issues usually don’t doom the GOP in national elections. No Republican has ever lost the presidency for being too pro-life, but several have lost when they’ve been perceived to be shills for crony capitalists.
3) He mobilizes and energizes the social conservative base that has been largely dormant since George W. Bush rode that base to re-election in 2004. Sure, they still mostly show up and vote GOP, but they haven’t been energized to turn out their mostly disinterested friends in the past two campaigns. And that base’s energy has been a key component of every Republican presidential election victory since 1980. Huckabee showed in August 2012 he can still mobilize that grassroots army when he spearheaded the record-setting “Chick-fil-A day” in support of the fast food giant, which was under attack from homosexual activists for supporting marriage.
4) His ability to articulate, particularly in a winsome way, is a welcome change from every GOP presidential nominee since Reagan. Few can better articulate conservative positions in a way that seems congenial, not confrontational. The GOP has been losing the war of sound bytes for years now. Huckabee is a sound byte virtuoso.
Still, while those who were disappointed he didn’t run in 2012 would welcome Huckabee with open arms in 2016, his path to the nomination is hardly an easy one. I’m concerned about Huckabee in the primary for two reasons.