Presidential Contenders: Part 7

Michael Dale Huckabee
Occupation: former Governor of Arkansas (1996—2007), pastor, news commentator
Hometown: Hope, Arkansas

Former Governor Mike Huckabee ran for president in 2008, finishing first in Iowa and carrying a total of 8 states to finish third among the Republican candidates, behind only eventual winner Senator John McCain and 2012 nominee former Governor Mitt Romney. He performed very strongly in the South, carrying his native Arkansas plus Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and West Virginia. It was speculated that he would run again in 2012, and a number of early polls showed him as frontrunner in the election. However, he ruled out running in 2011. He threw his hat in the 2016 race on May 5, 2015 (my birthday, actually). Normally, a nationally prominent figure who carried Iowa and ran a very strong campaign a few years ago would be a formidable front runner, but as anyone following the news can tell you, this election cycle is far from normal.

As a Baptist minister, Huckabee is a prominent social conservative, and he made sure to champion socially conservatives causes like the Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was found in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples over the summer. He has received a good number of endorsements so far, largely from fellow Southern politicians, including current Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Normally, this would leave Huckabee in an enviable position.

Yet Huckabee’s campaign has not turned in a strong performance. He has been relegated to the undercard “happy hour” debates for the lower-polling candidates, and appeared at frontrunner Donald Trump’s veteran benefit event last week, along with fellow undercard debater and former Iowa caucus winner Senator Rick Santorum. In May, Huckabee was in a strong position in terms of the polls, but the rise of Senator Ted Cruz (who seems to be stealing many of the evangelical voters who would otherwise bolster Huckabee) and Donald Trump among Iowans’ preferences have more or less sunk his chances. Barring an exceptional, completely unforeseen comeback tomorrow in Iowa, Huckabee’s 2016 chances are likely over. He probably does have a chance at winning some states in the South (given his 2008 performance), if he can somehow stay in the race and in the national conversation until the “SEC primary” in March, but any chance of success for him there is probably contingent on Cruz failing and Trump losing some popularity among evangelical and very conservative voters.


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