Big Man Upstairs Ends Huckabee Campaign

God does not want Mike Huckabee to run for President. Last Saturday night, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate announced on his Fox News program that he would not be entering the 2012 race. He said: “For me to do it apart from an inner confidence that I was undertaking it with God’s full blessing is simply unthinkable.” Nevertheless, he found time in his statement to emphasize (not unlike Donald Trump in his own I’m-not-running speech) that he would have been a major contender and a tough opponent in the presidential race.

God’s not the only one who doesn’t want Huckabee to run. “All the factors say go, but my heart says no,” Huckabee said in his announcement, a very apt measure of the potential strength (at least in primary season) of his candidacy. Until his announcement, many assumed he would fill a void in the very weak GOP field, capitalizing on the social conservative and evangelical vote. Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus in 2008, and was the only one left to face off against John McCain once his unlikely candidacy became a force to be reckoned with. Even without officially running, Huckabee polled strongly against the other potential GOP contenders. As a result, many candidates put off committing to the race until they knew what Huckabee was doing. Now that he’s out, former UN ambassador (and UN critic) John Bolton and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann have signaled that they are more likely to run. In other words, the menu of bad options just gained a little more variety.

But this announcement isn’t all that surprising. A few months ago Fox News suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as commentators on their programs, specifically so they could run for President (they have since officially announced their candidacies). Huckabee and Sarah Palin also had contracts with Fox News, yet they were not given the same treatment. That was a fairly clear sign neither of them would run for President. Like Sarah Palin, another advocate of social conservative issues and an unabashed champion of the Christian right, Huckabee has found great success working for Fox and stands to lose a lot financially if he goes for another doomed presidential run. And any election with an incumbent President is going to be a challenge — Huckabee could easily wait until 2016 when the road is clear and anyone, quite possibly a Republican, could more easily win the White House.

Evangelicals still have possible champions in the previously mentioned Gingrich and Santorum, and Huckabee assured his viewers that he would support whomever the GOP nominee ended up being. Using his program, Huckabee could turn his would-be base into supporters of whatever candidate he chooses, while still making a hefty sum of money. His fellow presidential quitter, Donald Trump, acknowledged the obvious advantage of simply sticking with a TV show and cashing out rather than go through the embarrassment and financial drain of a presidential race. And since he made such a good case for why he should have run for President, Huckabee has given himself wiggle room should the GOP primaries go so wrong that no one else would even stand a chance at beating President Obama. It wouldn’t be the first time someone stated he would not run for President only to change his mind — the president himself did the same thing before he began his campaign in 2007.

The bottom line is that while one party or the other may love the division and the flimsy nature of its opponents’ candidates, elections are important and both sides should have strong and capable candidates running for the presidency. Huckabee is not like most of these other future losers; he has charisma, a good sense of humor and an infectious personality. Few other candidates would be able to play bass guitar in the same hour that they also announced they would not be running. Huckabee’s decision is another chapter in the sad saga of how the Republican Party’s best people are staying away from the presidential fight. As more big name contenders decline to run, the field the GOP is left with becomes less and less desirable, for them and especially for political junkies. Partisans may enjoy beating up on a joke candidate, but it doesn’t make for an interesting or dynamic race.

Kerry Wakely is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at kwakely@uci.edu.