Huckabee To Make 2016 Decision On May 5

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 18, 2015 6:15 PM
Huckabee To Make 2016 Decision On May 5

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will announce his 2016 intentions on May 5 in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, which is also where former President Bill Clinton grew up. Are we trolling, Mr. Huckabee? I think so (via Reuters):

Huckabee said in an interview on Fox News that he will announce his plans in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas.

Huckabee, who left office in 2007, first ran for president in 2008. He hosted a Fox News television show but quit early this year to weigh another run at the Republican nomination.

Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, is known as an unabashed culture warrior on issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage. But he could struggle to win support beyond his social conservative base this year.

He would join a crowded field if he does decide to run. U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all announced their candidacies, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also are expected to jump in.

A super PAC has already been established to support his candidacy–and the former governor will probably tout his ability to defeat the Clinton machine since he’s done so many times before (via WaPo):

Speaking with reporters in Washington earlier in the day, Huckabee insisted he had not made a decision yet about running, although he said that "things are progressing along" in his preparations. He sounded like an all-but-declared candidate, saying a super PAC has been formed to support his likely candidacy and touting his supporter network in Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucuses, which Huckabee won in 2008.

Huckabee highlighted what he called a unique ability to beat "the Clinton political machine," pointing to his electoral success as Arkansas governor, a job he held between 1996 and 2007.

“There’s only one person I know in the Republican field that has consistently run against the Clinton political machine, the Clinton political money," Huckabee said. "Most all of my races, both Bill and Hillary Clinton came back to Arkansas to campaign for my opponents. So I know the process quite well -- and the good news for me is that I’ve defeated that political machine.”

Yet, if Huckabee does jump in, the reports of a feud are probably overstated according to Suzi Parker of The Daily Beast. Nevertheless, if Bill Clinton hadn’t run for president in 1992, its possible Huckabee would have never been elected governor:

Huckabee became lieutenant governor in a special election in 1993 after Clinton became president. In 1996, Huckabee ascended to the governor’s office when then-Governor Jim Guy Tucker resigned after his conviction in the Whitewater scandal.

Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., said that the 1993 special election set the stage for a long-standing connection between Huckabee and the Clintons.

“In that campaign, beginning a theme that he would use throughout his Arkansas career, Huckabee said his campaign was about ‘unplugging the [state Democratic party] machine’ at a moment of exceptional unpopularity for Clinton nationally,” Barth said. “While there really was no ‘Dem party machine,’ the theme resonated with voters and helped Huckabee eke out a very close win.”

Newspaper articles highlight the long-standing feud between Huckabee and the Clinton machine. A 1993 Wall Street Journal editorial entitled “Bill’s Backyard,” said: “Mr. Huckabee ran against a Democratic machine that pulled out all the stops against him.”

Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, said that while there is a long history between Huckabee and the Clintons, the feud has been blown out of proportion.

Before Huckabee’s 1993 Lt. Governor’s race, the Clintons' track record back home was somewhat unstoppable. After winning a rematch with then-Gov. Frank White in 1982 with 54 percent of the vote, Bill won his 1984 re-election bid with over 62.5 percent of the vote–and won again in 1986 with almost 64 percent. That year, the governor’s term was extended to four years. Bill Clinton would win re-election in the 1990 race with 57 percent of the vote.

So, yes, Huckabee has been able to beat the Clintons by proxy and became governor in 1996, but that point might be neutralized by a rather solid 2016 GOP field.  Additionally, as Parry noted, “Governor Huckabee has tremendous political talent: he’s good one-on-one and working a room. But he hasn’t yet parlayed those talents to the world stage. Hillary has, and for far longer, meaning she probably perceives Huckabee as only a slightly more interesting competitor than any of the apparently dozens of others.”