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December 13, 2013 10:46 AM Return of Huck?

By Ed Kilgore

The timing is interesting: a day after Mike Huckabee shut down his daily radio show, subsequent to a “consensus decision” he and Cumulus Media Network had made, Jonathan Martin of the New York Times offers the first real “Why Not Huck?” story of the 2016 cycle.

It feels like a million years ago when Huckabee ran for president in 2008, ruining Mitt Romney’s campaign with an upset win in Iowa and very nearly undoing John McCain’s in South Carolina. He gave some serious thought to running in 2012, and when you look at how well people like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (and briefly, even Herman Cain) did for a while, you have to wonder if Huck might have easily become the “conservative alternative to Mitt Romney” that many GOP activists seemed to want.

Looking forward, however, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have a lot of appeal to the conservative evangelical constituency Huckabee owned in 2008, and more importantly, could gain support beyond that constituency, which Huck could not. Still, the Arkansan’s famous charm and the reservoir of affection he has in the MSM could work in his favor if and only if he aggressively addressed his most notable weaknesses as a candidate.

One is his terrible reputation as one of those pols who just can’t raise money. In his discussions with Martin, Huck apparently mentioned the advent of Super-PACs with single gazillionaire backers as a change in the landscape that might benefit him. I don’t know if that means he’s gotten cozy with 2012 Santorum benefactor Foster Friess or Gingrich savior Sheldon Adelson, but it’s definitely easier to raise money from one or two people than from thousands.

Huck’s other big problem is his very bad relationship with economic conservatives who didn’t like his criticism (which he now calls “prophetic”) of the health of the economy under George W. Bush. His enemies included not only Establishment Conservative poohbahs like Grover Norquist (always ready to remind people of Huck’s record of supporting bipartisan revenue bills in Arkansas) but also the Club for Growth (which Huck incautiously labeled the “Club for Greed”), now a bigger factor than ever in financing “movement conservative” campaigns.

At this point, you’d have to figure Huck’s just trying to keep his name in the mix, if only to promote his Fox TV show and other potential ventures. But if he really wants to recapture the 2008 magic, he’d better spend less time in his new Florida beachfront mansion and more time visiting his old friends in snowy Iowa, who will soon be in hot demand by other 2016 campaigns.

UPDATE: Here are some excerpts from an interview of Huck by Christian Right journalist David Brody of CBN posted at his The Brody File site:


Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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