Two ex-supporters of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) have publicly questioned his chances since he launched his 2016 presidential campaign on Tuesday.
Both Ed Rollins, who chaired Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid, and Iowa radio host Steve Deace, who also supported Huckabee that year, expressed their bewilderment this week with the candidate’s current relatively populist economic platform.
“I am not sure his anti-business, anti-establishment positions are a winning strategy and are not positions I support,” Rollins told Business Insider on Friday. “Equally important, running against Washington and the Congress is not a winning strategy either. The Congress is now controlled by his party and attacking the things they are trying to do is shortsighted.”
When Huckabee announced his campaign, he made it clear he would adopt some unorthodox positions in the Republican field. Among other things, the former governor slammed free trade deals and vowed to protect Social Security entitlements from budget cuts.
“I still like him. I think he will be a credible candidate in this cycle but I don’t think he can win. I have no intention of endorsing him,” Rollins remarked. “I tried to help Huckabee when he was thinking about running in 2012.”
In a Politico story published Tuesday, Rollins said he had additional doubts about Huckabee’s latest campaign, including his ability to raise enough cash. He also said the time Huckabee spent as a radio and television pundit since leaving the 2008 race and comments he made in those appearances has resulted in “a lot” of material “that hasn’t been scrutinised.”
Deace, one of the most politically influential radio show hosts in Iowa whose 2008 endorsement of Huckabee was seen as crucial to his win in the state, also openly questioned the views presented in Huckabee’s announcement speech. In a blow-by-blow critique on his Wednesday radio show, Deace said Huckabee reminded him of a Democratic candidate.
“Hillary Clinton could have said that, and gotten the same amount of applause from the Rose Law Firm or wherever the hell she gave her announcement speech. Was it on the plane or a bus? They tweeted it out or something on a Sunday,” Deace said, according to audio published by the left-leaning group Media Matters.
Like Rollins, Deace stressed that he still has a lot of respect for Huckabee and his criticism isn’t personal.
“I say this as someone who loves him, honestly how many times have you ever been to a Republican party announcement speech and in the first ten minutes the candidate spent most of their time defending entitlement spending. When’s the last time you heard that?” he asked. “In the first half of the speech, we haven’t heard about cutting taxes, we haven’t heard about defeating Islamic Jihad, we haven’t heard about life, we haven’t heard about marriage, we haven’t heard about religious freedom.”
Deace further told Business Insider on Friday that the political climate had simply changed since 2008.
“I put my livelihood and credibility on the line for Mike,” he said. “This is a new cycle, a different environment, and the issues are not the same. For example, defending the welfare state was not one of Mike’s prominent positions in 2008.”
Indeed, the radio host said Huckabee’s position on entitlements struck him as the complete opposite of what Republican presidential candidates should be advocating.
“As I said on my show I don’t believe these statements will serve him well in this primary, and I also substantively disagree with him. The welfare state is operating at a $US128 trillion cash-flow deficit the next two decades,” he continued. “I don’t just disagree with that, but I think it’s immoral and awful public policy that put us in the debt hole we’re currently in. I hope Mike reconsiders what he’s saying here.”
Huckabee’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the criticism from his former allies.
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