Mike Huckabee “Open” To Running For President In 2016

Is Mike Huckabee about to re-enter politics in a big way?

Mike Huckabee

When last we heard from Mike Huckabee, he was stirring speculation in the Spring of 2011 that he might enter the 2012 race for the Republican nomination only to ultimately decide against it in a decision announced during a much-hyped appearance on his Saturday evening Fox News Channel show. Subsequently, the former Arkansas Governor tried to turn himself into something of a kingmaker in the Republican race and hosted a Presidential forum featuring most of the Republican candidates who were still running at the time just about a month before the Iowa Caucuses. Beyond that, though, Huckabee had mostly faded from the political scene and became the host of a three-hour daily talk radio show that many saw as a potential competitor to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. As it turned out, though, the radio show never seemed to get off the ground and, two weeks ago, it was announced that the show would end on December 12th. With that career behind him, Huckabee is suggesting that he just might be interested in running for President in 2016:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has not been among the Republicans frequently named as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but he would like that to change.

“I’m keeping the door open,” Mr. Huckabee said in an interview here Thursday night about the possibility of seeking his party’s nomination again. “I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me.”

Mr. Huckabee, a Christian conservative who made a splash by winning the 2008 Iowa caucuses before seeing his cash-short bid overwhelmed in subsequent states, said he would not run this time unless he could finance a durable campaign.

“If I talk to people and they say, ‘If you run, we’re in and we’re in a big way,’ that’s going be helpful,” he said. “If I don’t hear that, you know what? This will be a real easy decision for me to make because I’ve jumped in a pool without water before and it’s a hard hit at the bottom.”

Since his defeat in 2008, Mr. Huckabee, a pastor-turned governor, has made a living off his own eponymous show on Fox News, a talk radio program he just gave up and a steady schedule of paid speeches all over the country. He said he did not run for president in 2012 because he did not think President Barack Obama could be defeated, but he also acknowledged he has enjoyed earning a measure of financial comfort and celebrity through his show.

It is those two factors, along with the rise of super PACs that let a single wealthy individual sustain a candidate lacking a major financial network, that he says are making him look closely at a second presidential run.

But he also suggested that one of the reasons he granted an interview about his political future after addressing a gathering of pastors is that he is still bothered about how his first presidential run ended – and he wants the respect of somebody who performed better than more vaunted candidates and one who remains popular with many conservatives.

Discussing the potential Republican field in 2016, Mr. Huckabee said it would be “tough” for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to win such conservative redoubts as Iowa and South Carolina, two early nominating states.

“Let me show you some polling,” Mr. Huckabee said, brandishing a two-page memo about a survey his longtime pollster took earlier this month showing him leading the Republican field in both Iowa and South Carolina. He boasted that such good numbers came at a time when “nobody has even talked about me being named” as a candidate.

Mr. Huckabee dismissed the notion that pride was a factor in his decision to float a possible campaign.

“Anybody who would run for any reason other than to win is an idiot,” he said. But he quickly warmed to a question about not getting credit for his skepticism about the health of the economy as he campaigned in the months before the 2008 stock market crash and financial meltdown.

“A lot of things I said that I was sneered at about turned out to be prophetic,” he said about the criticism he took from fellow Republicans over his focus on the working class during the 2008 campaign. “A year later I looked like a genius but nobody ever said, ‘Huckabee was right,'” he said.

Were he to run in 2016, he believes that his brand of populism would be among his best assets and perhaps a good fit for the Republican electorate if the recovery continues to be fitful for some.

“If Republicans want to win, they’ve got to go get a portion of the population they’ve missed the last two election cycles, particularly working-class people and minorities who have not thought there was a message for them,” he said, touting his ability with such constituencies. But Mr. Huckabee, a social conservative who has drawn fire from some economic conservatives over the years, also suggested his decision would also be based on whether Republicans continue demanding strict adherence to conservative orthodoxy.

To be completely honest, I haven’t seen much public polling that includes Mike Huckabee in the mix of Presidential candidates for 2016 but that’s largely because until now there hasn’t been much serious speculation that he would be a contender of any kind in 2016. After his decision not to run in 2012, he seemed to be fairly happy doing his weekly show on Fox, his daily radio show, and the various speaking engagements that one hears about him showing up at around the country most of which seem to be more religious than political in nature. Additionally, the fact that he hasn’t been a major player in politics since dropping out of the 2012 race after only a month of primaries made it feel as if the GOP had sort of passed him by. To a large degree, for example, his religious constituency within the GOP ended up being claimed by Rick Santorum in 2012 and was just as unsuccessful in making Santorum a major contender for the nomination as it was in promoting Huckabee. The idea of Huckabee reentering the political world nearly eight years after he left the scene, then, would seem to be pretty unlikely.

Despite all of this, its worth remembering where Huckabee stood prior to his decision not to run for office in 2011. While Mitt Romney was quietly putting together the campaign organization that would win him the nomination, polling in early 2011 was showing that it was Mike Huckabee that was the favorite of a solid plurality of Republican voters (see here, here, and here.) Had Huckabee gotten into the race back then, it was expected, quite rationally, that he would have been the major opponent for Romney heading into 2012, and that he likely would have been a far stronger one than any of the plethora of also-rans that tried and failed to take out the guy at the top of the GOP race from the summer of 2011 through the spring of 2012. Would Huckabee have beaten Romney? Given the money behind Romney, that would have been quite difficult, but Huckabee likely would have been to unite most of the conservative opposition to Romney in a way that Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum were not able to do. More interestingly, after such a race Huckabee likely would have ended up at the top of any list of potential Vice-Presidential running mates that Romney would have been considering in the summer of 2012.

If the Mike Huckabee of 2013 as strong a potential candidate as the Huckabee of 2011 was? That’s hard to say. As I’ve said, much time has passed since he was a prominent player in the GOP and a frequent presence on television so its hard to say how much of his former influence and popularity remain. Additionally, the GOP has changed significantly since he ran for President in 2008 and its unclear that he’d be able to attract the kind of voters that a Rand Paul might appeal to, or that his fiscal record as Governor of Arkansas would pass muster with the Tea Party wing of the party.  In many respects, it’s quite possible that the Republican Party has moved on past Mike Huckabee and those o his kind. And, of course, there’s the distinct possibility that Huckabee is stirring the Presidential pot here to increase his media visibility. Nonetheless, Huckabee does seem to be expressing some interest in having a voice in who the next nominee is and it will be interesting to see how his fellow Republicans react to that.





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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JoshB says:

    He is looking to be relevant. End of story.

  2. JohnMcC says:

    What is this unexpected interest in Presidential campaigning doing to his ratings? THAT is the question. What a cynical scene awaits anyone who looks underneath the supposed love of country and faith in God that the right-wing espouses!

  3. C. Clavin says:

    So is that why he quit his Fox Show?
    If I believed in god I would pray to her that Huckabee is the Republican nominee…or Ted Cruz, or Sarah Palin, or Rubio, or Rand Paul.
    I notice OTB is carrying Christie’s water by ignoring the mess he is in with the bridge thing.
    I’m not the least bit surprised.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    In breaking news, Mike Huckleberryabee just announced that if a Foster Friess or Sheldon Adelson wants to throw a pot of money at him, he’ll be happy to take it.

  5. James Pearce says:

    If I don’t hear that, you know what? This will be a real easy decision for me to make because I’ve jumped in a pool without water before and it’s a hard hit at the bottom.

    Times were tough back then, it’s true, but I think 2008 Huckabee was better positioned than 2016 Huckabee. He should run for a smaller office. Why must he be so ambitious?

  6. michael reynolds says:

    This is how bad joblessness is. The unemployed are reduced to running for President.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Paul Ryan. I forgot Paul Ryan. Please run Paul Ryan.
    Has any speech ever contained as many lies as his VP acceptance speech?

  8. Woody says:

    Unfortunately, Mr Huckabee has espoused heretical ideas that dared to suggest the GOP refrain from kicking the poors. Thus, he will have no support from the bankrollers. As noted above, his religious right constituency has been assumed by Rick Santorum.

    And Roger AIles is no one’s fool – there’s no way Fox News would willingly allow a potential GOP winner out of the fold at this stage of the election cycle.

    Mr Huckabee is throwing a Hail Mary at relevance here.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    This is the “dangling the hunk of juicy red meat in front of the rubes to see if anyone is stupid enough to throw money at him” schtick.

    What we’ve seen is where people have discovered it’s far more profitable to make a career of running for office than actually being in office. Ol’ Huck has simply decided he needs to inject a bit more “running for POTUS” gravitas into his aura. Otherwise he’ll continue to slip down the scale into “Where Are They Now?” stories.

    In other words, Huckabee is trying to not become the Deanna Durbin of politics.

  10. ernieyeball says:

    …there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced — at gun point no less — to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.

    Mike Huckabee
    Christian Terrorist
    March 2011

  11. rudderpedals says:

    Who requested Huckabee? I didn’t ask for him. Did you? Did anyone?

  12. Pinky says:

    You’re overlooking a lot of advantages that he has. First of all, the name recognition. Remember that the GOP has a tradition of giving the nomination to people who’ve run before. He’s had a soapbox the last several years, a chance to become a better speaker and to gain an audience.

    He’s also not currently an officeholder. He doesn’t have to cast the tough votes on the current issues the way senators and congressmen do. He’s positioned as an outsider, which should help him among Tea Party types. He also has the governor’s mystique, which is so popular these days. Executive experience.

    I’m not saying that this is his race to lose. But against a field who’s never even lived in Iowa before, he’s got some strong points.

  13. Ron Beasley says:

    My guess is he is trying to jump start his sinking broadcasting career.

  14. Pinky says:

    Oh, and he didn’t lose his supporters to Santorum. The voters who supported Santorum last time aren’t likely to do so again. They were mainly anti-Romney votes. Anyway, Santorum has to be sacrificed to the fire gods this time. Those voters are up for grabs.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: “sacrificed to the fire gods”?

    Sounds like a GREAT idea!

    I’ll bring the popcorn.

  16. ernieyeball says:


    “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Mao Tse Tung

  17. Pinky says:

    @ernieyeball: Interesting quote, Ernie. What did you leave out with the ellipsis? It wouldn’t be something that contradicted the message you were going for, would it? Something like “I almost wish…”, which would indicate that he really didn’t wish it? And do you think he was being serious when he said it? Did the audience treat it seriously, or did they laugh at the line?

  18. Pinky says:

    Red Eye fans may remember what Mike Huckabee is like when he’s laying down the law…


  19. Tyrell says:

    “Huck” is a fine, Christian man, but he is wrong on one thing. He is in the wrong party. The Republican party is not the place for him. He needs to be in the southern wing of the Democratic (if you will) party: strong fiscal policies, sensible foreign policy, and strong defense. The national Democratic party is way out in left field. The Republicans remain confused and seem to want the government into everything if it fits them.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ron Beasley: At the time of his decision, someone, I forgett who, noted that Huck was not really interested in running for President, he was running to become Pat Robertson. He didn’t make it–and presently, not even Pat Robertson is “Pat Robertson” any more, given the loony stuff he spouts on his show. Trying to revitalize his broadcasting, or narrowcasting in this case, career is probably a futile move, but…

  21. ernieyeball says:

    Here Pink. This is one of many links you could have checked to see what I omitted if you really wanted to know.


    Be sure to read the following paragraph:

    I was quite surprised… to come across a video clip from this conference on the People for the American Way (PFAW) Right Wing Watch blog with the headline “Huckabee: Americans Should Be Forced, At Gunpoint, To Learn From David Barton.” I had watched Huckabee’s speech. How on earth could I have missed a statement like that? Well, I didn’t. It had been edited out of the webcast that I had watched.

  22. ernieyeball says:

    …do you think he was being serious when he said it?

    He’s such a Joker!

  23. ernieyeball says:

    I almost wish…I really don’t mean it. I’ll just say it anyway. I’m sure the saps will fall for the deniability ruse.

    Chairman Mao? Mike Huckabee? Bart Simpson?

  24. Pinky says:

    Ernie, I wasn’t actually asking. I was pointing out what a hacky job the left did in reporting this, and also pointing out that you should have watched the tape before you passed along that chopped quote that meant something completely different than you made it look like.

  25. ernieyeball says:

    Pink…You must be referring to those Left Wing Hacks United in Purpose.

    The organization which hosted the “Rediscover God In America” conference, United in Purpose, has edited Huckabee’s comment from footage of his speech,..

    I watched the unedited tape. Not the Approved Holy Roller Redaction.
    …what is completely different than the words

    …all Americans would be forced, forced — at gun point no less — to listen to every David Barton message.

    How is this different than “Accept Allah or we behead you…
    Oh HA HA HA! I’m just kidding!”

  26. Andrew lee says:

    @JoshB: anyone who can’t see that huckabee is sincere and has a genuine love of our country needs stronger glasses!