Monday, May 16, 2011
Huck Shakes Up the GOP Field...By Exiting It
The big news in the grand scheme of things isn’t that The Donald has renounced a bid for the White House.
Though Donald Trump had scored well in early polls, much of that support was comparable to Rudy Giuliani’s “front runner” numbers going in 2008- a mile wide and an inch deep.
The billionaire real estate developer-casino owner-television personality-titan of self-promotion sucked the oxygen out of the room with his high media profile and public heckling of President Barack Obama over his birth certificate.
Despite confident boasting that he would have won the GOP nomination had he sought it, Trump was likely facing a tough fight in the retail political centers of Iowa and New Hampshire, particularly with his aversion to handshaking.
With other candidates struggling for “air” (read: attention/media coverage), Trump’s first appearance in a debate would have been a dog-pile, as little-known contenders would have tried to establish notoriety for themselves by aggressively challenging The Apprentice star to back up with specifics some of his flippant policy positions.
It would have been far more entertaining television watching than La Toya Jackson shuffling about on random tasks.
Embarrassing setbacks in the first two states would have done no favors for the Trump brand, something that has generated loads of money just through the The Donald’s fame.
That said Trump did the GOP a major favor not carrying out his presidential flirtations further.
The big news you won’t read on TMZ is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s decision to not make the race.
While Trump was hogging the spotlight, Huckabee was hogging the social conservatives.
The folksy Baptist preacher is making good money for the first time in his life between his television program on Fox News and book sales. Huckabee also relocated outside of Arkansas and has built a large house in the vicinity of Destin, Florida with a reported $3,000,000 price tag.
A presidential run won’t help him make the money needed to maintain that kind of manse.
Huckabee went from a minor candidate to the front tier of the Republican presidential primary fight with a surprise second-place showing in the 2007 Ames Iowa Straw Poll, a strategic victory that ended the presidential candidacy of Kansas US Senator Sam Brownback, who finished a disappointing third despite a major investment in the political carnival.
A few months later Huckabee overwhelmed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the actual caucuses though the minister failed to parlay that momentum in the New Hampshire primary. Huckabee’s last hope to contend came in the South Carolina primary where he fell short behind US Senator John McCain.
Huckabee was handicapped in that contest by the presence of ex-Tennessee US Senator and actor Fred Thompson, who split the social conservative vote with Huckabee in the Palmetto State.
Huckabee facilitated John McCain’s nomination in 2008 by remaining in the race thereby denying Romney the social conservative voters he needed to overcome the Arizona senator.
Huckabee’s departure from the race opens up the field for social conservative candidates to pursue a critical segment of the Republican electorate he had a major hold on, particularly in the first caucus state of Iowa.
By bailing out, Huckabee erased the likelihood of the primary devolving into a duel between McCain’s main two rivals from the previous election.
With the former Massachusetts governor holding his niche vote from 2008 and Huckabee holding his segment of the Republican electorate, there wasn’t much room for one of the half-dozen or so other presidential candidates break out from the crowd.
Sans Huckabee, a social conservative alternative can now emerge out of Iowa or South Carolina to take on Romney, who is the lead candidate in 2012 for the GOP nod, on Super Tuesday.
By opening the field, Huckabee has done Romney a major disservice, which in a way is appropriate and as there was no love lost between the two from 2008.
Look for Huckabee to support not the candidate with the best social conservative credentials (ex-Senator Rick Santorum) but the candidate with respectable social conservative credentials with the best hope of stopping Romney in the primaries.
A Huckabee endorsement of ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty would help him fend off US Representative and TEA Party favorite Michele Bachmann in Iowa. Huckabee’s support for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would go a long way towards mitigating the Hoosier’s infamous “truce on social issues” fumble.
Though Huckabee won’t be president, he has the potential to be kingmaker in 2012 if he plays his cards right.