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Romney/Huckabee 2012?

By the end of the 2008  Republican nomination fight, there wasn’t much cordiality left between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. When Romney became the subject of an anti-Mormon whispering campaign in December 2007 during the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses, there was plenty of speculation that the Huckabee campaign and its supports was behind the whole thing.  For his part, it seemed rather obvious that Huckabee saw Romney as the guy who was blocking him from taking on John McCain early on in the process. More generally, one got the impression that these two gentlemen just didn’t like each other very much. As the 2012 campaign started gearing up, there was much speculation about whether Huckabee would take Romney on again, especially considering that early polls seemed to indicate that the one people capable of mounting an effective challenge to Romney was none other than Mike Huckabee. Huckabee didn’t run, of course, Romney is the nominee, and National Review’s Robert Costa wrote yesterday that the former Arkansas Governor is apparently being considered for the Vice-Presidential spot on the ticket:

The conventional wisdom about Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential short list, according to a handful of Romney insiders, may be wrong. Instead of picking a straitlaced Midwestern senator such as Ohio’s Rob Portman, or an outspoken northeastern Republican governor such as Chris Christie, there is a chance Romney will tap an evangelical from the South.

And the name on the lips of Romney friends and supporters isn’t a rising southern senator or a current Dixie governor. He has been out of office for five years, resides on a beach in the Florida panhandle, and hosts a television show.

In other words, Mike Huckabee, the bass-guitar-playing former governor.

Yes, according to several sources close to the Romney campaign, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the vice-presidential search, the 56-year-old Arkansan may be included in the veep mix.

To many Republicans, a ticket with a Mormon bishop and a Baptist preacher isn’t far-fetched. “In a way, it’s almost a dream ticket,” says Ed Rollins, the chairman of Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s substantive and knows domestic policy, and his personality wouldn’t overshadow Romney’s.”

For now, it isn’t clear whether Huckabee is going to be vetted, or that he’s anywhere near Romney’s short list. But he is, at the very least, being discussed. As one Romney ally puts it, tapping Huckabee would energize tea-party conservatives, evangelicals, and related voters who soured on Romney during the GOP primaries. He’s also not a sweat-inducing pick, since he was vetted by the Beltway press during his presidential run four years ago.

A second top Romney source is less enthusiastic about Huckabee’s conservative appeal but acknowledges that the former governor is probably on the “larger list of about 40 names” that’s being debated within Romney’s inner circle. “People have made that suggestion,” the source said, during conversations with Matt Rhoades, the campaign manager, and tight-lipped Romney confidants such as Scott Romney, the candidate’s older brother, and Ann, Romney’s wife.

Notwithstanding the fact that he’s spent the last four years or so hosting a show on Fox and, most recently, a mid-day talk radio show that competes with Rush Limbaugh in several major media markets, there seems to be little doubt that Huckabee has the right political resume to be Vice-President. Before running for President, he served ten years as Governor of Arkansas and three years as Lt Governor before succeeding to that office when Democratic Governor Jim Guy Tucker, who had succeeded Bill Clinton, was convicted of fraud.  Perhaps more importantly for Romney, though, Huckabee has street cred with the one segment of the GOP base that was most doubtful about Romney during the long nomination fight:

The growing buzz about Huckabee within segments of Romney World delights social-conservative leaders and Huckabee allies, who have long hoped that Romney would reach out to the GOP’s evangelical voters with the veep selection. “If he’s not on the short list, somebody ought to put him there,” says Hogan Gidley, a former adviser to Huckabee. “He’d bring excitement to a ticket that’s lacking that, to some degree, right now. Beyond that, he’d bring a huge grassroots organization, and, to put it simply, the South.”

Veteran conservative activist Ralph Reed agrees. “Huckabee would be an outstanding and inspired choice,” he says. “He has tremendous support among evangelicals and conservatives, and he knows how to frame issues in a way that makes it clear he has core convictions and he does it in a winsome way.”

“Whatever differences Romney and Huckabee had during the 2008 campaign, and I don’t think they were significant, they have put that behind them,” Reed adds. “Governor Huckabee and Governor Romney, from what I can tell, have a good relationship, and each of them respects the work and views of the other.”

Romney campaign aides say Huckabee and Romney have healed any lingering wounds throughout the past year, mostly during the public forums hosted by Huckabee during the primary campaign, and behind the scenes before television tapings. Huckabee, they say, may not have received a lot of attention as a Romney supporter, but he has been supportive during key moments in the campaign, such as when Democrats attacked Romney as a flip-flopper on abortion. Huckabee, speaking on Fox News, favorably compared Romney’s conversion to Ronald Reagan’s.

Of course there is one segment of the GOP base that isn’t quite as enthusiastic about Huckabee. There isn’t much love for Mike Huckabee among the fiscally conservative wing of the party, largely based upon his record as Arkansas Governor where spending increases and tax hikes were a common part of his tenure. Additionally, many of the ideas that he advocated during the 2008 campaign, such as the FAIR Tax aren’t exactly popular with the libertarian wing of the party, as Jason Pye points out:

The idea that Huckabee is a small government conservative is nothing short of absurd. He has supported cap-and-trade, a federal smoking ban, tax hikes (more than Bill Clinton) and increasing spending on social programs.

Jonah Goldberg said it best about Huckabee:

When it comes to economic issues, [Mike Huckabee] is hard to distinguish from all  sort of different brands of liberals. He is hostile to free trade. He is very friendly to raising taxes. He believes in regulation wherever necessary. He thinks abortion must remain a federal national issue, can’t send it back to the states. And that’s what I mean by “right-wing progressive.” He wants to use government towards conservative ends. He says it’s a biblical duty to fight global warming. The problem with  someone like Huckabee is that he much like, in my mind, a liberal sees no dogmatic constitutional limits on the “do-goodery” of the federal  government. Whatever he thinks is the right thing for the federal government to do, if he thinks there’s a good thing that can be done by the federal government, he wants the federal government to do it whether  it’s constitutional or in accordance with principles of limited  government. And maybe what he wants to isn’t what a cultural liberal would want to do but he still wants to use the government the same way.  It’s big government conservatism. And that, I think, is the real threat  these days to conservatism.

Goldberg would later note that, despite his foreign policy disagreements with Ron Paul, that Huckabee was a scarier candidate, one that “represents compassionate conservatism on steroids.

When it comes to fiscal issues, then, Romney and Huckabee aren’t all that different and that’s the problem.

For the most part, though, I would think that a Huckabee pick would go over very well with most Republicans, including the supposed fiscal conservatives in the TEA Party, who increasingly seem more interested in talking about social issues anyway. Another advantage that Huckabee could bring to the ticket would be an ability to relate to middle-class and blue collar voters much better than Romney does.

At the same time, though, I’m not sure that Huckbee would be a smart pick for Romney at all. Beyond serving to unite the base, which is really something that Romney needs to do himself and not rely on a running mate for, there are plenty of downsides to putting a guy like Huckabee on the ticket. For one thing, there’s the whole history of comments that Huckabee made about Romney during the 2008 campaign that will be brought back up again. For another, there’s plenty of stuff in Huckabee’s own record as Governor that could be brought up again, not to mention things he’s been saying on the air and all those pictures of him playing bass while Ted Nugent sings. Finally, picking a candidate so closely associated with social conservatism, whether it’s Huckabee or Santorum, would potentially end up being a distraction for the entire race. The last thing the GOP wants to do is spend the next six months talking about social issues. Putting Mike Huckabee on the ticket would guarantee that they would.

This is a trial balloon that should be shot down immediately.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    The last thing the GOP wants to do is spend the next six months talking about social issues.

    Republicans, by and large, simply can’t help themselves when it comes to social issues. As you note, the “Taxed Enough Already” faction of the GOP is in reality mostly energized by social issues (with a big side of anger about takin’ their money and givin’ it to THOSE PEOPLE).

    Those social issues *matter* to people (Democrats too, of course). In a really personal way, for some of them.

    I used to think like you, Doug. But I’ve come around on this: these issues are not just annoying distractions from “real” issues. This stuff matters. You care more about other things, and that’s fine. A lot of the time, I care more about those other issues too. But let’s not pretend we’re normal. ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Hey Norm says:

    “…In a way, it’s almost a dream ticket,” says Ed Rollins…”

    As in…you must be dreaming…or more likely, smoking crack.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Jr says:

    Why?

    Huckabee is a nice guy, but he doesn’t help Romney anywhere but the South(Which he is going to win regardless). If he is on the ticket, you might as well put VA in Obama’s column.

    I will never understand why the GOP can’t stay away from social issues, this isn’t 2004 anymore. Issues like Gay Marriage and birth control aren’t election winners.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  4. PJ says:

    Please vote for the 2008 Republican Primary Rejects!

    Can’t wait to hear what kind of positions Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani will get in a Romney administration!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. John Burgess says:

    I just talked to my neighbor about a Romney-Derek Jeeter ticket. We laughed at that, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Obviously Ed Rollins recently must have been lobotomized.

    Speaking of lobotomized, is it a comedy, or a tragedy, or a tragicomedy, that Huckabee for Romney’s veep actually would be far better of a choice than Sarah Palin was for McCain?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. PJ says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:
    I have things in the back of the fridge that would make a far better choice for veep than Sarah Palin, if only they had been there for 35 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. Gustopher says:

    Huckabee is way more likable than Romney. Traditionally, the VP slot goes to someone who will fill out the candidate’s resume, or cover some other weakness.

    Obama was inexperienced, and smooth, so he picked a VP that had a lot of experience on the foreign relations committees, and who would become a gaffe-prone mascot.

    McCain was a gazillion a d a half, and yelled at people to get off his lawn, so he picked a VP who was much younger, more attractive, and who probably should be running an HOA.

    Bush had no foreign policy experience, so he picked someone with lots — actually, he picked Cheney to head up the VP selection process, and Cheney picked himself, but close enough.

    Kerry had terrible hair, and looked vaguely French — all things Edwards helped with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Jr says:

    @John Burgess: Puts NY and NJ in play…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. al-Ameda says:

    Wow, Mike is the evangelical version of Joe Biden.
    At that level it makes perfect sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Tsar Nicholas says:

    @Gustopher: What do you have against HOAs?

    @PJ: What never ceases to amaze me about that choice is just how unforced of an error that really was. There were a dozen legitimate candidates. Two dozen. It’s unfathomable that McCain picked a nobody from such a remote state. That she wasn’t even vetted beforehand takes it from the absurd to off the rails batshit crazy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Jr: What else can they talk about? Sammy bin Laden pretty much inoculates Obama against weak on defense. Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy has been quite successful. He’s winding down the second of the two wars he inherited and the only one he started was successfully concluded with little cost to us. No one who lies like Romney can run on character. Likability? Please.

    The Rs thought they would have a cake walk on the economy, which is improving despite the Rs’ best efforts. So—it’s going to be God, guns, and gays again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I don’t think Sarah Palin would have the smarts to run an HOA. Running an HOA means you have to actually manage, negotiate, and get everyone to work together.

    She’s far more likely to be the one member of the group who incessantly whines to the board about (X), (Y), and (Z), in spite of all the times she’s been told (a) the law allows it (b) we don’t have the right to regulate what you’re upset about, and (c) it was voted upon and everyone decided against you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. @Tsar Nicholas:

    What do you have against HOAs?

    I’m not opposed to HOAs when they’re truly voluntary, but when restrictions on zoning and construction essentially force people into one, they basically become a method for local governments to weaken the property rights of homeowners by subjecting them to edicts that would be blatantly unconstitutional is passed as a law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Davebo says:

    I’m not opposed to HOAs when they’re truly voluntary, but when restrictions on zoning and construction essentially force people into one, they basically become a method for local governments to weaken the property rights of homeowners by subjecting them to edicts that would be blatantly unconstitutional is passed as a law.

    Much different here. Local governments have nothing to do with them and we have no zoning so HOA’s could serve a purpose in that regard.

    They don’t, but they could. The upside, if you don’t like what the board of your HOA is doing you can vote them out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Fiona says:

    “He’s substantive and knows domestic policy, and his personality wouldn’t overshadow Romney’s.”

    I have to laugh at the second part of that quote. Huckabee has a personality and a sense of humor–two things Romney lacks. Even a lot of liberals like him. Nobody really likes Romney. Romney’s better off going with the dull white guy from Ohio if he doesn’t want someone with a personality that overshadows his.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Tillman says:

    I just want to see the VP debate between Biden and Huckabee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Huckabee has everything Romney is looking for in a running mate: he’s big enough to hold someone down while Romney wields the scissors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  19. Tsar Nicholas says:

    @grumpy realist: Grumpy, I must quibble with your semantics. I for one am 100% certain that Palin does not have the smarts to run a HOA. To effectively run a HOA you also need to be versed with a whole array of fairly technical legal concepts. Palin doesn’t fit that bill.

    @Stormy Dragon: Stormy, I was being sarcastic. I meant why would anyone want to saddle a HOA with the likes of Palin? Of course Gustopher himself also was being sarcastic.

    Getting back to the Palin fiasco, I’m sorry but now I’ve locked myself in my own negative feedback loop and I can’t escape it. McCain’s pick of Palin was the worst VP pick of all time. There’s not even an analogy for it. It’s preposterous. I can’t get over it. I need help. I want Tommy Lee Jones or Will Smith to zap me with that thing, you know, the mind eraser. Please, erase Palin from my memory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. anjin-san says:

    Even a lot of liberals like him.

    I like Huck too. Well, I like him until he wanders onto subjects that make it clear he is a religious nut.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Fiona says:

    @anjin-san:

    I like Huck too. Well, I like him until he wanders onto subjects that make it clear he is a religious nut.

    At least Huck’s a sincere religious nut, one more thing he has over Romney. Sincerity isn’t exactly Romney’s strong point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Moosebreath says:

    Fiona,

    “At least Huck’s a sincere religious nut, one more thing he has over Romney.”

    True. At least Huck recognizes that Jesus actually wanted to help the poor, not the 1%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. Jeremy says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I wish you would talk to one of my Republican friends, who’s a big Goldwater fan, and was pretty dismayed with the GOP–but for some odd reason thinks Palin was the best VP pick of all time.

    I just don’t get it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. racehorse says:

    I think Huckabee is a nice, honest guy. He seems to be a pragmatist.
    Best VP’s: Truman, Humphrey (if we had one more week, we would have beat Nixon), Ford (also a very capable leader who assumed office in at a horrible time). Worst?: Andrew Johnson, Al Gore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  25. al-Ameda says:

    in the past 35 years we’ve voted for two overtly religious and pious protestant presidents – Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. So, I’m not especially excited about an evangelical protestant, or an overly pious catholic, being on the national ticket.

    Full disclosure: I am a catholic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    Betcha five bucks there’s a sermon or statement from Huckabee somewhere denying that Mormons are Christians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0