Mike Huckabee (Finally) Withdraws
Now that John McCain has mathematically sewn up the nomination even without the delegates Mitt Romney pledged to him, Mike Huckabee has given up his candidacy.
Calling his White House bid the “journey of a lifetime”, Huckabee spoke Tuesday night from Irving, TX commending McCain on an “honorable campaign” and emphasizing his commitment to the Republican party in the fight to the November election. “We stayed in until the race was over. We kept the faith, that for me has been the most important goal of all,” Huckabee said, standing with his wife on stage at the Four Seasons Hotel. ” I’d rather lose the election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place.”
Huckabee’s brand of social conservatism, combined with his strong core support among evangelicals, and a frugal campaign budget, left party rivals scrambling to defend their conservative credentials. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were all, at least in part, victims of Huckabee’s surprise success.
Ultimately, the former Arkansas governor won by losing, attracting significant blocs of the GOP base in state races despite McCain’s significant delegate lead, the latter due in part to the party’s largely winner-take-all delegate distribution.
Huckabee’s folksy appeal earned him clout within the party as a force to be reckoned with. Still, he has said he is not interested in a third-party run for the White House and, presidential aspirations aside, that he would rather go on a “rock tour with Amy Winehouse” than enter the Arkansas Senate race. Huckabee has also downplayed his place in the ’08 veepstakes, telling a reporter this February “I don’t think Sen. McCain would select me anyway…I think that it’s a little almost off the chart to think that he would end up selecting me.”
Huckabee’s meteoric rise from political obscurity to GOP threat began with his second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll — an unofficial but closely watched exercise within the Republican campaign cycle — back in August 2007, which signalled his potential to stage a GOP upset. The momentum that followed Huckabee out of the straw poll finish — complete with cable news bookings, network morning show interviews, and print media outlets clamoring to ask him “how” bumped Huckabee from second-tier to rising star on the nation’s political radar.
It’s doubtless true that Huckabee far exceeded expectations, including mine. While I was ultimately correct in listing him among the declared candidates who Would Not Be Elected President in 2008,* he won several states and had an impact on the race.
But let’s not get carried away, either. He’s a personable fellow who went a long way with very little money, a weak organization, and zero Establishment support. But there was no time in this race when it was plausible that he’d be the nominee. He won Iowa as the “anybody but Mitt Romney” candidate in a contest McCain, Giuliani, and others skipped. He didn’t win again until garbage time, when he was running as “the conservative alternative” to a man who had all but sewn up the nomination.
Huckabee will not win the nomination in 2012. Or 2016. Or 2020. He’d easily win a Senate seat from Arkansas if he changes his mind. But he’s not going to be elected president.
*UPDATE: I did allow, in the comments section discussion, that “Huckabee is the most viable name on my list, I think, but I just think he’s got too far to go in the money/name recognition race to win it.”