Huckabee’s Out, What’s Next?

Mike Huckabee's decision not to run has shaken up the GOP field for 2012.

There are already a number of pundits out speculating about what Mike Huckabee’s decision not to run in 2012 means for the GOP race in 2012, and the first question is where the people who were supporting him go now:

Huckabee’s supporters now become one of the most coveted voting blocs in the still-unsettled Republican contest.

The former governor was at the top of early polling in Iowa and South Carolina and also faring well in many national surveys. His strength can be partly chalked up to name recognition this far out from voting, but his demographic appeal leaves a sizable void in the field: there is now no well-known candidate for Christian conservatives and middle-to-lower income Republicans.

A Pew poll in March showed that Huckabee led the field among white evangelicals, taking 29 percent of the vote to Romney’s 15 percent. The same survey showed Huckabee leading 23 percent to 18 percent over the wealthy former Massachusetts governor among those Republicans making less than $75,000 per year.

Huckabee’s decision “makes that base wide open for support,” said Bob Vander Plaats, the former Iowa gubernatorial candidate who led Huckabee’s 2008 campaign in the state.

“It’s hard to say who is going to benefit right off the bat,” Vander Plaats said. “That vetting process is going to start anew.”

What’s most likely to happen initially, of course, is that many of these voters will drift into the undecided column as they wait for the race to play itself out more. Initially, though, as I mentioned last night, it would appear that the candidates best equipped to pick up support from these voters are Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann, if she runs. However, there’s another potential candidate who may see Huckabee’s decision as the impetus to do something that most observers assumed she wouldn’t do:

In many polls, though, those who supported Huckabee chose former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as their second choice. Should Palin decide to throw her hat in to the 2012 ring, Huckabee’s supporters would most likely give Palin serious consideration.

Would Huckabee’s withdrawal cause Palin to jump into the race? Possibly, but she, and the rest of the GOP, would still have to deal with the fact that it seems fairly apparent that she has no shot at beating Obama in a General Election.

So, let’s say Palin stays out of the race, then what happens? Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin thinks it benefits Michele Bachmann:

If you assume, as most people do these days, that Sarah Palin will also stay out the race, the chief beneficiary has to be Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann is the darling of the Tea Party crowd as well as a strong social conservative. While most pundits and party insiders consider her politics too extreme and her personality too over the top to be nominated, let alone elected, her outsider status as well as her religious frame of reference is the closest match to Huckabee’s 2008 profile. With evangelicals having a disproportionate impact on the Iowa caucuses, Bachmann is the potential candidate best positioned to benefit from Huckabee’s absence.

Another scenario, though, would be for Huckabee’s bloc to not unite behind any single candidate, at least not early in the race, which ironically could help Huckabee’s arch-nemesis from 2008:

Without the former preacher in the race, why couldn’t Romney make a strong showing in Iowa? The 34 percent of caucus-goers who supported Huckabee in the race could splinter, leaving a path for Romney to capture a plurality victory in the Hawkeye State.

Aides to the Mormon businessman have taken a wait-and-see approach to the caucuses, seeking to lower expectations as they wait for the field to develop in a state where about half of GOP voters could be born-again Christians.

“They certainly are going to have to revisit Iowa,” said Brian Kennedy, a former state GOP chair there who backed Romney in 2008 but is now uncommitted. “They had been biding their time, but now there’s a little clearer picture.”

Another Iowa Republican was even blunter, suggesting that the Romney fig leaf for not being able to win the caucuses has been stripped away.

“The biggest loser is Romney because he no longer has a foil in Iowa,” said the Republican. “All the Iowa polls sans Huckabee have him winning.”

Romney’s 2008 campaign suffered unrecoverable setbacks thanks to twin losses in the Iowa Caucuses (to Huckabee) and the New Hampshire Primary  (to McCain). Clearly, the  campaign was hoping to avoid another embarrassment in Iowa, which has become even more of a haven for social conservatives over the past four years, ,eby avoiding the state and concentrating on New Hampshire. With Huckabee out, that would seem to be even less of an option, especially given the other problems that Romney has with the GOP base these days thanks to the Massachusetts health care plan.

Finally Conor Freidersdorf wonders why so many people wasted so much time positing over Huckabee’s intentions:

Now that we know that Mike Huckabee isn’t going to run for president, it’s worth pointing out that all the time spent reporting, writing, and reading about his intentions over the last several months has been totally wasted. Given that there is always worthy news going unreported, wouldn’t it be better to mostly ignore potential candidates for the presidency until they actually declare?

Maybe, but what would be the fun in that? Besides, now that the Huckabee speculation is over we can move on to important things like speculating over the Presidential intentions of Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump.

 

 

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    Romney

    *Yawn*

  2. You do seem to thrive on these early, meaningless hypotheticals with a half-life of a few hours.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares who the Republican nominee is going to be? No matter who is nomnated, they candidate will have zero chance of winning unless President Obama is caught in bed with a dead girl and a live boy. But even if President Obama makes a huge mistake between now and Nove 2012, he will still get as many or more black, Hispanic, Jewish, Homosexual, labor, public sector, academic sector votes that he received in 2008.

    President Obama knows that he will win ever states that was carried by Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008 without spending a dollar. That kind of edge is now impossible for the Republicans to beat.

  4. Just like George H.W. Bush in 1990.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    Charles,

    What state can the Reppublicans win that Kerry won in 2004 and Obama won in 2008. The Democrats start with most of the electorial votes already accounted for. That is why the election always boils down to Ohio and Florida.

    Can the economy really be bad enough for the Republicans to win in New Jersey or Wisconsin?

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Just like George H.W. Bush in 1990.

    That Bush had the twin misfortunes of running against a very good campaigner in Clinton and having Perot siphon off votes that might otherwise have gone to Bush…let us know when the current president will suffer similar misfortunes…

  7. A voice from another precinct says:

    @superdestroyer: Eventhough I see where you are coming from, I disagree with your assesement about Obama’s strength. Even with the advantages you cite for Obama, this particular election is the GOP’s to lose because of the economy and the disappointment of Obama supporters of his tack even farther away from the center (I won’t say “to the right” because I don’t see him as ever having been left of center–he wasn’t, and hasn’t been, to the left of Hillary and she doesn’t exactly represent a socialist darling).

    Sadly for the Republicans and conservatives out there, losing this election is a rabbit that the magicians of the GOP are fully capable of pulling out of their hat. On the other side of the question, maybe some time in the wilderness will help conservatives find their way back to an ideology that other people can see some potential in.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Just like George H.W. Bush in 1990.

    Actually it was in early 1991, after Gulf 1 with GHW’s numbers in the 90’s that a lot of people regarded him as a shoo in. I realize that “fact” has kind of a loose meaning on the right, but try and do a little better.

    The comparisons between Bush 41 & Obama are a reach. GWH was elected on Reagan’s legacy. He was never particularly popular and did not really have a base of his own. He also had the luxury of running against a pathetically weak opponent in ’88.

  9. anjin-san says:

    disappointment of Obama supporters of his tack even farther away from the center

    Good luck with that one. Aside from the fringe left, Democrats are pretty happy with Obama.

  10. anjin-san says:

    will help conservatives find their way back to an ideology that other people can see some potential in.

    If you can find someone like Goldwater, I will send him a few bucks myself. The batshit crazy conservative politics of today play like Lord of the Flies on acid.

  11. reid says:

    Good luck with that one. Aside from the fringe left, Democrats are pretty happy with Obama.

    Democrats will be especially motivated when the alternative is any typical Republican yahoo these days. (Romney is the only big name that might be able to snow many non-political folks.) Also, the possibility of a Republican House, Senate, and White House should be enough to strike fear and nausea in any sane person….

  12. wonkie says:

    The voter surpression laws passed by Republican legislatures may tip the outcome in enough states to make the next Presidetial election a squeaker. That’s the reason for the big push to pass such laws, after all.

  13. Mike Farrell says:

    Mataconis is so twisted up in his Palin PDS he forgets what he writes about her one week to the next e.g :
    To the extent there ever was a Palin “brand,” it’s pretty much ruined at this point. She’s the easiest punchline in the country, and probably not even as popular as the doppleganger that Tina Fey portrays on occasion. One wonders if Fox News Channel even wants to keep her around much anymore. The idea that Sarah Palin is anything other than a political curiosity at this point is nearly too silly to be taken seriously”

    But now: “However, there’s another potential candidate who may see Huckabee’s decision as the impetus to do something that most observers assumed she wouldn’t do:
    In many polls, though, those who supported Huckabee chose former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as their second choice. Should Palin decide to throw her hat in to the 2012 ring, Huckabee’s supporters would most likely give Palin serious consideration.” Mataconis is by his own standards a silly person.

  14. jukeboxgrad says:

    There’s no contradiction between those two statements. The first is about how she’s viewed by most of the country. The second is about how she’s viewed by certain members of the GOP (specifically, Huck supporters).

    You seem to not realize that those two things are different.

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