Robin Smith / April 20, 2015

Hope Brings More Than One Candidate

Mike Huckabee will likely join the GOP field in early May.

As America looks forward to the 58th time our national population of voters will elect a president, a few candidates for the highest office of the land have both Democrats and Republicans recalling elections of years past. In this presidential cycle, there are a few names of repeat candidates: Bush, Clinton and now Huckabee.

Barring some act of God, 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee will join the field in early May. Best known for his eponymous television show on the Fox News Channel, the former Arkansas governor aims to join three announced Republican opponents — Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

Huckabee made his pre-announcement of his announcement Friday evening during Fox’s “Special Report” with Bret Baier, where he teased a May 5 event in his hometown — also the same hometown of Bill Clinton — Hope, Arkansas.

Born nine years and a week after his fellow “Hopeling,” Huckabee seeks the same pathway to the president as Clinton — through the governor’s mansion of a “flyover” state with a population nearing three million. The choice of the small town of Hope to launch his second presidential bid serves up his narrative that he’s one of a few who has “beaten the Clinton political machine.”

Huckabee’s background as a Baptist minister coupled with his “aw-shucks” populism fuels his ease in front of crowds and equips his lexicon with stories, colloquialisms and policies. Huckabee’s base of support generally emanates from those whose primary concerns are driven by social issues. And his 2008 claim to be “a conservative but isn’t angry about it” seems intended to separate him from some of the vocal Tea Party/Libertarian base.

Huckabee noted in a Friday morning meeting last week with the press that the crowded GOP field is a tremendous contrast to his 2008 bid, in which he was essentially the lone evangelical conservative facing Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This time, he asserts, “There are a lot of qualified, capable people, but none of them will be as qualified as me.”

A Wall Street Journal/NBC survey conducted March 1-6 of 1,000 adults, 87% of whom were registered voters with 26% of those self-identifying as Republican primary voters, revealed Huckabee as a candidate either liked or disliked — with little in between. Republican primary participants were asked to indicate which GOP presidential candidates they would consider. Of the 14 named GOP possibilities, Huckabee joined Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as one whose potential support exceeded 50%. However, Huckabee also joined Donald Trump, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in the list of candidates who would not be supported by 40% or more of the respondents.

Part of Huckabee’s trouble is that his big-spending record during his gubernatorial tenure displaces his tax cuts. And while he touts his 90 tax-reduction measures versus his 21 tax increases, the Arkansas Department of Finance records that his tax cuts totaled $378 million between 1996 and 2006 compared to tax increases of more than $883 million.

Like Hillary, Huckabee has a record of opposing school choice. Further, he supports the misinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment permitting citizenship for anchor babies. But on the plus side he supports the constructionist interpretation of First and Second Amendment rights.

In light of his mixed record, will Huckabee be able to win over conservatives tired of the age of Big Government? For a populist who won Iowa seven years ago, the possibility isn’t unthinkable.

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