Mike Huckabee and the GOP

Daniel Larison is a bit too charitable here in assessing Mike Huckabee’s finish in last year’s presidential primaries:

While Huckabee was officially the second-biggest vote-getter in the primaries last year, he achieved this mostly through perseverance and concentrated support from evangelical voters. Had Romney continued to compete and waste his money on what would still have been a losing bid, it is not certain that Huckabee could have managed his second place finish.

In fact, the 2008 Republican race wasn’t even a contest.  Mitt Romney quit the race during CPAC on February 7 and pledged his delegates to McCain.   Rudy Giuliani had failed to make his push in Florida — coming in way behind Romney, who finished second.  The race was over.

Except that, technically, it wasn’t.  Huckabee stayed in the race, along with Ron Paul, despite no chance of beating John McCain for the nomination.  As a result, they padded their totals as everyone not happy with McCain as the nominee had to vote for one of them.  And, really, since Paul was a fringe candidate, that meant Huckabee.

The results, per CNN, are at right.

The fact of the matter was that Huckabee, a virtual unknown at the beginning of the contest, was mostly a stalking horse.  Huckabee finally withdrew on March 5, once McCain mathematically sewed up the race on his own — that is, not counting Romney’s delegates.   As I wrote at the time:

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.

I  stand by that assessment.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. floyd says:

    How about the Fred Thompson factor?
    It is pretty clear that he ran only long enough and for the purpose of taking votes from Huckabee.
    At any rate, the vast majority of Fred’s supporters would have gone to Huckabee in his absence.Fred’s campaign also affected the momentum of the primaries and must be included in any reasonable analysis.

  2. McGehee says:

    Mike Huckabee cannot be the Great Right Hope — he fails on all three counts.

    At any rate, the vast majority of Fred’s supporters would have gone to Huckabee in his absence.

    I suppose that’s possible, but it isn’t true of the vast majority of Fred supporters I ever saw.

  3. If Huckabee does win the nomination in 2012, it will confirm what many have suspected: that all of talk about limited government by the various people in the teabag movement was just a cynical attempt to pass partisanship off as principle and that the GOP will return to big-government conservatism as soon as they regain power.

  4. PTAMominMaryland says:

    You could not be more wrong. I plan to be at the Inauguration of President Mike Huckabee in January 2013. I will give every ounce of energy that I have to make that a reality.

    Mike Huckabee is good government for everyone, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Only good government can save my children’s American future and for that I will pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor. Benjamin Franklin said “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?” —Benjamin Franklin, to Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention.

    It is immoral what our government is doing to all of us but especially to the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged among us … the government promises the world but delivers stones.

    The government uses poor people like a commodity to enrich the unions, enrich their buddies who bring “development” to the city, enrich the organizations who provide “services” to the poor, and enrich the businesses that save money and get around the excessive regulation of the work place by hiring illegal immigrants.

    How can we be judged guiltless, if we continue to elect people who act so coldly and irreponsibly?

  5. Highlander says:

    You are dead on in your observations and analysis.

    Huckabee will always be a presidential loser at the end of the day. He has no “magic” factor. Then again poor old Mitt Romney is a pretty boy with a zillion dollars to spend, and his magic was pretty limited also.

    This is not to say that in 2012 Huckabee might not serve the GOP establishment’s need for a “useful fool” for awhile to take some conservative primary votes away from that “damn woman” Sarah Palin.

  6. Mike Dodge says:

    Mike Huckabee has as good of a chance of becoming president in 2012 as President Barack Obama does of becoming conservative. I liked Huckabee’s occasional humor during the campaign, but all in all, he was one of the most boring candidates next to Tom Tancredo.

    Romney should have won the nomination (but still would have lost to Obama in 2008). I curse Republicans and conservatives who couldn’t look past his religion (which WAS an issue, even atheists could see that). But, Romney does need to conform to a message, a clear, explicit message (something far more descriptive than “Change we can believe in”). He must stop trying to please everyone and just stick to his message. Oh yeah…and avoid the attack ads against your own party members (I think that hurt him, too.)

  7. Franklin says:

    While it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, I think the Republican nomination for 2012 is a moot point.

  8. Melvin says:

    Huckabee’s got a good chance of winning the nomination in 2012. With Huntsman sitting this one out, there are only three legitimate candidates at this point. Huckabee, Romney, and Pawlenty. If Huckabee wins Iowa, I think he takes the nomination. Pawlenty is going to move to Iowa(his next door neighbor), after he leaves office in January 2011. If Pawlenty wins Iowa, he’ll duke it out with Romney in New Hampshire. Romney will probably win that one. South Carolina will probably be the decider. Romney has no chance there. It’s between Huckabee and Pawlenty. Whoever wins South Carolina wins the nomination, and then loses to Obama in November.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    There is no chance that President Obama will lose in 2012. If the Republicans nominate Palin or Huckabee, the Republicans stand a chance of losing all 50 states. I doubt that there are enough brain dead social conservatives to even carry Alabama for Huckabee.

    By 2016, the Republican Party will be so irrelevant to politics that there is a chance that the media will refuse to waste money covering the Republican Primaries. The U.S. could know who will replace President Obama by the end of Super Tuesday in Feb. 2016.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    There is no chance that President Obama will lose in 2012.


  11. Carolynn says:

    I’m so glad to hear someone in the blogeshere claim that Huck won’t win.

    I was so confused when that poll came out and was thinking to myself “what are all the Tea Parties and conservative political action for if people think Huck is our guy.”

    Really I’ve been kind of down about it and was thinking that if this is going to be our nominee, I’m checking out now because he’s not going to get us where we want to go.

    There was a great article in the National Review this week on Mitt. I follow his Pac website and every speech he gives I read the transcipts. Too me he’s someone I feel I’d fight for and will keep at it until we win. But Huck — No Way

  12. floyd says:

    “”There is no chance that President Obama will lose in 2012″”
    Maybe true , but only if the elections are fixed or canceled for the “good of the nation”, or he becomes “President for life”.
    Otherwise,a 3% swing compared to this last election will replace him and there is not “no chance” of that happening!

  13. Rick Almeida says:

    That’s not quite true…there’d have to be enough swing in enough specific started to change the Electoral College vote pretty dramatically.

    Not many sitting presidents who run for re-election lose.

  14. Rick Almeida says:

    there’d have to be enough swing in enough specific started…

    “started” = “states”

    Sheesh, this site needs a preview function or something. :p

  15. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    THIS Fred Thompson potential voter went to Romney as her second-choice and sat out the primaries when her only options were McCain or Huckabee.

    I felt both candidates were equally bad. I started liking McCain again when he chose Palin as his vice president.

  16. McGehee says:

    Not many sitting presidents who run for re-election lose.

    At present we have four living ex-presidents, of whom two were defeated for re-election.

    So, define “not many.” 😉

  17. Rick Almeida says:

    At present we have four living ex-presidents, of whom two were defeated for re-election.

    So, define “not many.” 😉

    Well, we have had 55 individual presidential elections since 1789. 25 of those featured a president running for re-election. 8 of those incumbents lost. So, about a third, meaning about 67% of incumbent presidents win re-election.

    Not many lose.