Monday, May 16, 2011

What Mike Huckabee's Absence Means For The 2012 Race

This has been quite the weekend. Donald Trump dropped out of the race and so did Mike Huckabee. The fact that the former governor of Arkansas dropped out of the race is more significant to the 2012 Republican primary than the news of Trump backing out.
Mike Huckabee Decided Not To Run
Many people have speculated whether or not Mike Huckabee would run again. Some people thought he would run while others predicted he would not. Well, all those speculations are put to rest since Mike Huckabee has announced that he will not be running in 2012
Yet, for anyone who was watching Mike Huckabee closely, it was clear long before he made his announcement that he wasn't running: 
Huckabee’s decision shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who has been watching the emerging field. For starters, he hadn’t assembled his team, and key ’08 aides and endorsements had started to work for other GOP candidates. What’s more, with his multi-million-dollar house in Florida, it was pretty evident it would be difficult for Huckabee to step away from his FOX show.  Then there was his upcoming Christian-themed Alaska cruise in June. Bottom line: As Huckabee said on Saturday night, his heart just wasn’t in it.
When Mitt Romney heard the news about Huckabee's decision not to run, he left a message on Mike Huckabee's home answering machine: 
When Wallace noted he didn't mention Romney, Huckabee said, "No but let me tell you something — I got a wonderful voicemail from Mitt Romney last night, which I thought was very gracious on his part."
Romney and Huckabee tussled nastily during the 2008 campaign, and their bad blood has lived on into the current cycle. But Huckabee insisted if Romney is the nominee he'll support him, because he'd be better than President Barack Obama.
"Whether he is my first choice, I will support him if he is our nominee and he very well may be," Huckabee said.
Other potential 2012 candidates, looking to pick up supporters of Mike Huckabee or get Mike Huckabee's endorsement, also made comments about Huckabee's decision not to run: 
“It is unfortunate that we will not have his voice — or his bass guitar — in the presidential debate, as our party would have benefited from his involvement,” said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in a statement.
Newt Gingrich said: “Had Governor Huckabee decided to run, there is no question he would have been a frontrunner in the 2012 campaign for president.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is already courting the evangelical voters who helped Mr. Huckabee win Iowa in 2008, issued his own statement to say, “I plan to work hard to earn the support of the millions of Americans who have supported him.”
New York real-estate mogul Donald Trump, appearing on Fox News right after Mr. Huckabee made the announcement, said, “A lot of people are very happy that he will not be running, especially other candidates.”
I think Mitt Romney comes out ahead since the other 2012 candidates made a public play for Huckabee's supporters but Huckabee didn't mention any of their names. However, he did mention Mitt Romney and said that he was willing to endorse Romney if he won the 2012 Republican primaries. The fact that those comments left the lips of Mike Huckabee will mean alot to the people who supported Mike Huckabee. 
Some of Huckabee's supporters, like Ruth Griffin, who could see the signs that Huckabee wasn't running before he made his announcement, have already made the switch to support Mitt Romney.
Mike Huckabee's Absence Changes The 2012 Election
With Mike Huckabee out, it is a complete game changer.  Those who haven't decided will probably more likely to jump in order to capitalize on vacuum created by Huckabee's decision. That means people like Mitch Daniels, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin can jump in and sweep up those supporters. Any one of those candidates who decides to either jump in or stay our will have a major impact on how the 2012 Republican primaries play out. The biggest game changer will be Sarah Palin. Whatever her decision is, it will have a big impact on the rest of the Republicans who are already in the game.  
People will be watching Sarah Palin closely. They will be looking for signs or signals on whether or not she will run. Quite naturally, the speculation and rumors about her decision will most likely be the main topic among political junkies, bloggers and journalists. 
Another reason why Mike Huckabee's absence is a game changer is because candidates now have to revise their strategies and game plans. For example, candidates will have to rethink whether or not they will compete in certain primaries like Iowa and South Carolina. Moreover, there are now potential campaign donors who are up for grabs. After all, Mike Huckabee told them to keep their "powder dry" until he made his decision on whether or not he would run. With Huckabee gone, many politicians will certainly work to curry the favor of those people who made large donations to Huckabee's campaign.
I think Mitt Romney is the candidate that benefits the most from Mike Huckabee's decision. With one of his biggest competitors out of the way, Mitt Romney will stand a little bit taller and become a more attractive candidate in a very crowded field of Republican candidates.

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