Earlier this week, rumours flew that Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had decided to not seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
This was major news in political circles, because (hard as it is for some to imagine) Mr. Huckabee is the de facto front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. More precisely, he is the only candidate in the race (so far) who commands the support of the party’s social conservative base and its most important region (the South). So what he does or does not do will have a big impact on what happens after he makes known his decision.
Shortly after we published that brief post about the rumours that Mr. Huckabee might not run, we heard from a half dozen operatives and journalists who are well-wired into Republican Party politics. The best wired among them said flatly: “Huck is in.” The others said more or less the same thing.
Byron York of The National Review is one of the better reporters of conservative politics and he has a column today which reiterates this view. It is worth reading in its entirety. The short version is that “informed sources” (my quotes, not his) say Mr. Huckabee is leaning toward making the race.
A number of years ago, in 1999 to be specific, a visitor dropped by the governor’s mansion in Texas to talk to then-Gov. George W. Bush about the upcoming 2000 presidential campaign. It was the visitor’s view that Mr. Bush should not make the race in 2000; that it was essentially a re-run of the 1988 race, except that Vice President Gore would play the role of Vice President George H.W. Bush and that Gov. Bush would be cast as the politically improved (but still-doomed) Michael Dukakis.
Mr. Bush acknowledged the parallels and said he knew the race would be uphill. But, he said: how often does one have a more or less clear shot for a major party presidential nomination? “The only thing standing between me and the nomination is Steve Forbes!” he said (which was true at the time). So if you have that shot, Mr. Bush asked, aren’t you compelled to take the chance?
That’s where Mr. Huckabee is today. He has a clear shot at being the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. This is not to say that he will be the nominee. Any number of things can go wrong. But he’s the only real social conservative in the field and social conservatives are the base of the party. They can nominate him all by themselves if they want to.
If someone comes to you and says you have a better than even chance of being the GOP nominee and that gives you a 50-50 chance of being the next President of the United States, do you say: “no, what I really want to do is give motivational speeches in Phoenix and Nashville.” Or do you say: “let’s go.”
“Let’s go” wins every time, I would think. We’ll see.