Mike Huckabee announces his candidacy today in a blaze of God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. This is the guy who won Iowa in 2008--but didn't get far past that. He's a guy with for-real charisma who hails from Hope AK where another guy whose name you might know (Bill Clinton) comes from. With Chris Christie looking like a non-starter, Mike Huckabee is the heavyweight in the ring. Literally: he might weigh more than any other candidate and maybe out weighs Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio combined . . .
But He CANNOT Win
Huckabee is a 2008 candidate up against a 2016 crowd that plays his own tunes better than he does. Yeah, he's an actual theologian--but Cruz has the same appeal and current service, Carson has the same appeal and a new-car smell. Even Walker can bring the generally religious out if he isn't primarily a social conservative.
Huckabee pulls single-digits in the polls and while while he has room to grow, his name recognition isn't rock-bottom either. He has ditched some of his sunny demeanor during his time with Fox and regained some of the weight he lost (and wrote a book about). He's not an awful candidate--but in a line-up that promises a lot of people who think they make a good 'second choice' isn't Huckabee vying for "third choice?"
His biggest problem, says FiveThirtyEight, is that while he had real appeal to the SoCons he never found a way to broaden that base and that dynamic will continue to haunt him in 2016 unless something changes.
On The Other Hand
On the other hand, on some polls Huckabee leads the likability contest by a massive margin:
|He IS 'Likable Enough'!!|
On the SoCon front his biggest competitor isn't really Ted Cruz--it's Rick Santorum--who probably won't even really run and his single digit polling is right about where Cruz is too--that's not that bad.
Also, consider this: we're going to have a gay-marriage decision by the Supreme Court in the summer right about where the debates start. Going into next year we'll see the social wars heat up with women's issues (abortion, birth control, and other tertiary issues like trans-gender and gay rights stuff). Maybe being a hard-core social warrior is what 2016 will really be about?
Owning that battle-space might be a sweet-spot.
The Net-Net on Huckabee
The question for Huckabee is going to be his aggression factor: while he's not in Trump-Territory in terms of being a joke, he doesn't have the unpredictability of Ben Carson either: if he's going to get to the top he either has to claw his way there or hope for several flame-outs before he has an aperture of hope. This means he's going to have to take someone out. Sure, he'll play nice (like everyone else) in the beginning--targeting Hillary, talking up his game, and having a parade of religious conservatives talk about how important 2016 is to the spiritual health of the nation and the world.
But at some point he's going to have to make his move and the question will be against who--and how hard? Huckabee's strategy takes place in, literally, the "SEC States"--a collection of 11 southern, conservative states where he thinks he's most likely to pick up momentum and move towards victory:
This strategy is actually a canny one: Huckabee can ignore New Hampshire (where he is under 4%) and if he does well in Iowa it's a "nice-to-have" instead of a must-have. This gives him breathing room. The downside is that Florida is a super-expensive media-market and is going to be the 'bone' that Jeb and Rubio are fighting over: Huckabee will need every bit of his God, Grits, and Gravy to dive into that mess.
The Omnivore suspects that Huckabee's 2016 run manages to dilute Carson or Cruz's evangelical support costing one of them a needed few points before Jeb and Walker start to pull away.
Okay, But What's He THINKING?
Huckabee wasn't interested in 2012--he was building (re-building) his brand, had a first-time-ever really lucrative show with Fox, and heck, that election was shaping up to be a mess anyway. This time, though, he's had a cabal of Christian ministers whispering in his ear and begging him to run. Huckabee is a true believer and while he probably doesn't believe God is calling him to run, he likely does believe that America needs a conservative Christian candidate and he's the best positioned there.
He may believe that things are gonna slide--slide in all directions--and before there's nothing you can measure any more, someone of the faith better get in there and try to set things right. In other words, he believes he really is the best man for the job.
But what's going on in his brain? Let's do the Omnivorous Mind-Meld and find out:
THOSE PANCAKES ARE DELICIOUS!! Oh yeah--where was I--oh, right. Launch--gotta launch. Did we get all the domain names? Make sure we get someone on that--can't have some thug putting up Huckabee porno. That'd look awful. Now, let's see--ooh--Jam! Tasty.
Cruz--he'll be easy: Roman Catholic, fake Canadian--I can no-sell him in my sleep. Carson's tougher--he's trying that sunny thing too--but the man doesn't know how to talk. My time with Fox will be enough of an edge there. Rubio? Ha. Reformed Mormon. I won't even have to lift a finger--but that bagel--I'll lift that. Then there's Jeb--eh. The only fire he'll catch are his britches burning when he tries to woo Georgia.
Just have to hope Walker flames out. Now . . . let's see . . . Imprecatory Prayers . . . Where did I put that old prayer book . . .