May 2011 Update: Mike Huckabee announced May 14 that he will not run for president in 2012, stating, “All the factors say go, but my heart says no. And that’s the decision that I’ve made.”
March 2011 Update: Huckabee continues to lead polls asking Republicans their preference for nominee. He is said to be 50-50 on making a second run. March may prove a mixed bag for Huckabee. One week he defends Michelle Obama against Republican attacks for her healthy eating/exercise initiatives (Huck has credibility on this because he lost more than 100 pounds after his doctors diagnosed him with type 2 diabetes and gave him a shortened life expectancy). The same week, he says that Obama sets a good example for being a descent man and a good father and husband. And on top of that he says that we need to move beyond the distractions regarding Obama’s faith; Huckabee takes the president at his word that he’s a Christian (isn’t that all any of us can do concerning an issue that is truly between the person and God). But I guess the Huckster had a case of a little too much truth and the next week, he continued to push the notion that President Obama is somehow not American and that his positions are based on his Kenyan upbringing, which never happened as Obama was raised almost exclusively by his white mother and grandparents in Hawaii and briefly in Indonesia. For that, Huckabee loses some standing with me. Unfortunately, that type of rhetoric could help Huckabee in the primaries.
I think the 2012 Republican primary field will have room for four general types of candidate: the religious/social conservative, the fiscal/tea party conservative, the practical/no-nonsense conservative and the establishment conservative. Mike Huckabee is the most obvious candidate to fill the role of religious/social conservative. This wing of the party is a powerful voting bloc in general and primary elections, especially in the early voting states of Iowa and South Carolina. Last time around, this group propelled Huckabee to a win in the Iowa caucuses even after being outspent by millions of dollars by Mitt Romney. South Carolina’s Republican primary has chosen the eventual nominee since its inception in 1980. In the state’s 2008 primary, Huckabee fell just 3% behind Sen. McCain, who went on to become the nominee. If some of the lesser candidates had gotten out of the race sooner, Huckabee may have won South Carolina and been the 2008 nominee.
Should Huckabee run for the 2012 nomination, he’d be a strong contender due to his socially conservative positions on several issues. Some Republican primary voters may find his economic record as governor of Arkansas a little liberal for their tastes, though. As an ordained minister, Huckabee is at ease communicating in a folksy way and sometimes brings a different perspective to policy discussions. Still, he occasionally says some off the wall things and that may cause concern for some voters. It is unclear whether Huckabee will run this time around. He has cited the financial strain that running last time put on his family and the fact that he enjoys his lucrative contract he has as a Fox News commentator as possible reasons not to run. But if he does throw his hat in, he will have a place in the ring.