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2016 Scouting Report: Mike Huckabee

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Bio:

Born 8/24/55 (59 years-old) in Hope, Arkansas, just like former President Bill Clinton…grew up in a typical middle class environment, with both parents working blue collar jobs…his first job was in local radio at the age of 14…was involved in student government growing up for his first taste of politics…graduated magnum cum laude from Ouachita Baptist Bible College, where the “School of Education” is now named after him…in his early 20s became the communications director for James Robison, one of the founding fathers of the Christian Conservative movement…spent most of the 1980s as a Baptist minister at different churches, where he was known for encouraging racial integration…former president of the Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention…eventually left the pulpit to get into politics full time, losing his first election for U.S. Senate to incumbent Democrat Dale Bumpers in 1992…then beat Bumpers’ campaign manager in a special election for Lt. Governor of Arkansas in 1993, becoming only the second Republican since Reconstruction to serve in that post…it was in this campaign that Huckabee began his relationship with political pollster/consultant Dick Morris, who was also close to the Clintons at the time…Morris went on to advise Huckabee in his next several campaigns as well…Huckabee was slated to be the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate again, but ended up leaving the race to become governor of Arkansas when Jim Guy Tucker got embroiled in the “Whitewater Scandal”…ended up becoming the third-longest tenured governor in state history, winning the largest percentage of the vote ever by a Republican…named by Time Magazine one of the five best governors in America…was the underdog story of the 2008 GOP presidential primary, winning the Iowa Caucuses by 9 points and then 7 other states to finish second in delegates behind nominee John McCain…parlayed that success into a successful 6-year weekend program on Fox News, several best-selling books, and a brief stint in nationally-syndicated conservative talk radio…married 41 years to his wife, Janet, and they have three children: John Mark, David, and Sarah.

Strengths:

Huckabee might be the most effectively winsome communicator the GOP has at the moment, a lost but necessary art to overcome the effective demagoguery of the Left and the mainstream media…also one of the few national figures in the Republican Party who knows how to speak to the middle class without looking hypocritical, clumsy, or pandering…one of the rare Republicans who is also an unabashed social conservative and unafraid to go on hostile programs like “The Daily Show” or “Real Time with Bill Maher” and defend his beliefs…the folksy persona he displayed on Fox News, where he frequently played the bass with the likes of Ted Nugent, makes him one of the most-liked national figures in the GOP…that was confirmed in 2012, when Huckabee launched “Chick-fil-a Day” to come to the aid of the fast food giant when it was under attack from the Left for its Christian beliefs. The result was a world-record for most business ever done in one day by a restaurant chain.

Weaknesses:

While the general electorate likes Huckabee, opinions of conservatives are decidedly mixed based on his record as governor, past support for Common Core, and recent history of often endorsing the more liberal Republican in several contested primaries…during his last presidential run, Huckabee was criticized for having too lenient of a pardon and clemency record as governor. For example, in 2009 Maurice Clemmons, whom Huckabee commuted of a 108-year sentence for robbery and theft in 1989, killed four police offers in Washington state…groups like the Club for Growth also panned his record of “raising the sales tax repeatedly” and “increased state spending” (Huckabee’s defense is he signed the largest tax cut in state history and left office with a billion dollar surplus)…despite the fact he was one of the few national Republicans to oppose the TARP in 2008, many limited government advocates and Tea Party groups rank from opposed to lukewarm about his 2016 candidacy.

Analysis:

Huckabee is a strong general election candidate because he combines the three components of every victorious GOP presidential campaign since 1980: he’s likable, energizes evangelicals, and appeals to middle class voters. Every time the GOP doesn’t nominate someone that meets all three of those criteria they lose, no matter who the Democrat nominee is. Every time the GOP nominates someone who does they win, no matter who the Democrat nominee is.

Conclusion:

While he’s a strong general election candidate, Huckabee’s path to the nomination is difficult. Limited government proponents and libertarians were just beginning their ascendancy in the party when he last ran in 2008. Now they are an organized force in the GOP known as the Tea Party, and Huckabee is not a favorite of that crowd. Furthermore, there will be a lot more competition for the massive evangelical base this time, too. There are several other viable candidates who also appeal to Huckabee’s native tribe. If Huckabee wants to be the GOP nominee next year, he needs to spend this year making inroads to a broader cross-section of the conservative grassroots.

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