A lot of political pundits are convinced that Mike Huckabee is not running for President. Nationally known columnists, local strategists, even the founder of this website all seem to agree. They say Huckabee is in a good spot right now and will not want to go through the rigors of another campaign. I am not one of those people.
The case against Huckabee running makes a lot of sense. He is building a $3 million house in Florida. He has a nice gig working for Fox News Channel, hosting daily ABC radio segments, making high dollar speaking engagements and promoting his latest book. Huckabee openly talks about his distaste of campaign life. There is also the matter of four dead Washington State police officers, which Huckabee’s opponents will inevitably, and justifiably, connect to him. Why would he run for President?
Perhaps the question we should ask is why wouldn’t he? Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa Caucus by nine points. He almost won South Carolina. Then, although his chances of winning the nomination were miniscule at that point, voters chose Huckabee in West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Louisiana. Three years later, he is at or near the top in every national poll. He certainly would be the favorite in Iowa. If he wins Iowa, he probably takes South Carolina this time. Then, the other states will fall in line. Huckabee has the clearest path to victory in the GOP primary.
Let me be clear. I hope the pundits are right and Huckabee does not run. If he does, I will not caucus for him. I have no idea who I will support, but it will not be Mike Huckabee. I believe the Republican Party can do much better. Despite that, I believe Huckabee has a better chance than anyone to capture the nomination.
Some say it is too late. He shows no signs of getting into the race. They claim Huckabee is not laying the groundwork and his fundraising has not kicked into gear. How soon they forget. Some of the same people who talk about his lack of fundraising often like to remind us he won Iowa in 2008 on a shoestring budget.
These pundits also do not take into account three important factors. One is the national platform that Fox News continues to provide him, despite stripping that edge from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum earlier this week. Second, many of Huckabee’s 2008 backers are still patiently waiting for him to jump in the race.
Third, and most important, the pundits seemingly have no idea that there is already groundwork being laid to build upon Huckabee’s Iowa base. It is called the “Capturing the Momentum” tour, currently underway, starring Huckabee’s buddy and 2008 state chair Bob Vander Plaats.
Halfway through the 99-county swing, the effort to build a statewide, grassroots network of social conservatives seems to be very successful. While a few events have drawn only a handful of people, Vander Plaats is packing them in at other stops, including over 50 in Marshalltown, Newton and Oskaloosa, 65 in Garner, and 150 in Pella. Vander Plaats is getting better attendance at some of these events than he got during his last gubernatorial campaign.
The Vander Plaats wing of the Iowa Republican Party is energized. Despite a disappointing defeat last June in the primary, Vander Plaats and his flock bounced back with a resounding and unprecedented ousting of three Supreme Court justices in November. The “Capturing the Momentum” tour, in line with its title, is an effort to keep that momentum going.
Although Vander Plaats is not openly advocating for Huckabee at these events, he does name drop the former Arkansas Governor quite often. Many of Vander Plaats’ supporters backed Huckabee in 2008. Many of the new supporters BVP is trying to lure to the FAMiLY Leader’s congregation are preachers and churchgoers. They are hoping to line up a “church ambassador” in all 99 Iowa counties. The church ambassador fee comes with a $1,000 annual price tag. But it also allows the FAMiLY Leader access to an entire congregation.
That is Huckabee’s constituency. The evangelicals. Despite a faltering economy, they place social issues far above economic ones. In fact, they say they are tied together. They are fiercely loyal to Vander Plaats. Many of them are still fiercely loyal to Huckabee.
So, could Huckabee step into the race as last as August, as Vander Plaats suggests, and still win? Yes. How? Because his core supporters are still behind him. Not only that, Huckabee is practically guaranteed to earn the endorsement and full backing of the FAMiLY Leader, if he runs. And all the fixings that come with that entrée.
What would that mean? Consider the 92,000 people who supported BVP in the 2010 primary. How significant is that number? Do the math. If one third of BVP’s supporters caucus for Huckabee, he wins. Huckabee rolled to victory in 2008 with 34,000 votes.
The grassroots groundwork is being laid. The poll numbers are positive. The environment to beat Obama, while certainly difficult, it is favorable. And it favors Mike Huckabee the most.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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