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Thursday, July 09, 2015

Candidate Profile: #12. Mike Huckabee

For background to this series, click here.

Now let's get to the OTHER guy who won the Iowa Caucus and finished in second place but is still counted out this time around. The 12th most likely nominee of the Republican Party is . . .

Mike Huckabee, 59, Former Governor of Arkansas, 1996-2007

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.mikehuckabee.com--"From Hope to Higher Ground"

PPFA Slogan--"From God, to God God."

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +6.5 (Individual rights: +9; domestic issues: +5; economy: +3; foreign policy: +9) That economic number sticks out the most and pulls down his average. Indeed, there has been considerable conservative criticism of his fiscal record as governor. He earned an "F" from the CATO institute in their Fiscal Policy Report Card of 2006, his last full year in office, and a "D" for his tenure as governor.

Conservative Rank based on above: 5 of 16.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--This pastor turned governor turned runner-up presidential candidate has long listened to God for his conservative values. As a seminary student and then minister, he learned of the world's moral absolutes. Then, as a politician, he applied what he learned as he dedicated his governorship to those who needed his help--businesses, the working class, and children. His efforts earned him a spot as one of Time Magazine's top five governors in the country. In his 2008 campaign for the presidency, he won Iowa, challenged the establishment candidate John McCain to stay the right course, and ultimately came in second. Even after the loss, Huckabee stayed in the conservative spotlight with a show on Fox News and publishing several conservatively themed and religiously grounded books. Never straying from his moral compass, he has been among the most vocal critics in the onslaught against traditional American values.

Spin from opponents--Republicans: He says he's conservative, but is he tricking us? There's no doubt about his vocal opposition to abortion, same sex marriage, and the erosion of Christianity from the center of public life, but take a closer look at his so-called conservative record. He granted over 1,000 pardons as governor (ten times more than predecessor Bill Clinton), only tepidly supports the death penalty, favors environmental regulations, scores abysmally on immigration, and his aforementioned fiscal record speaks for itself. He might not be liberal, but he's much too moderate for our nomination. Democrats: "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle"?? "I think that students also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism"?? "There are only 10 basic laws that we need. If you think about it, the Ten Commandments cover it all"?! Ewwwwwww.

How do the polls look?--His RCP national average is a healthy 7.8. Our first four entries in this series were almost afterthoughts nationally. Huckabee's RCP average, however, makes the top five, and he's polled in double digits a handful of times in the last couple months. In Iowa, where he won in 2008, he averages at an even 8, although he's surprisingly out of the top five there. (He was hurt by a recent Quinnipiac poll that had him at just 5 points; he was between 8 and 11 in the preceding eight polls. Throw out the Quinnipiac poll and he'd average in the top three.) In New Hampshire, his Midwest preacher approach has never played as well, so his 3.8 average, 10th place ranking is expected. In South Carolina he averages a solid 7.0, good enough for sixth place. My guess is the Huckabee camp is extremely happy with these numbers as they start planning for the August 6 Fox News debate.

PPFA analysis--Huckabee's great poll numbers stem from how active he's been since his 2008 campaign. Since then, he's published four books and hosted his eponymous talk show for over six years on Fox News. That's how you stay on the minds of Republican voters even without holding or running for office. The question is, since he's a known quantity, can he grow his support any more?  (We'll be asking the same question of Donald Trump.) To start answering that question, let's look at his competition, starting with the candidate I just covered in the last entry. An analysis of Huckabee is similar to one of Rick Santorum (#13). The tale of the tape:

Rick Santorum: 57, former office holder, 2012 Iowa winner, 2012 Republican runner up, extremely conservative on social issues, mostly known for traditional values.
Mike Huckabee: 59, former office holder, 2008 Iowa winner, 2008 Republican runner up, extremely conservative on social issues, mostly known for traditional values.

Remarkably similar. Due to these remarkable similarities, we can probably say they appeal to same exact constituency. They'll both put most of their chips into the Iowa basket and hope to ride evangelical Christians to victory. And for that reason, they'll eat into each other's support and both end up nowhere. Meanwhile, newer faces to the presidential process like Ben Carson and Bobby Jindal will be competing for the same type of voter. The result is that no single candidate of this group will garner the type of support or raise the amount of money necessary to do battle with Jeb Bush and the other favorites.

PPFA nomination rank--12 of 16 (Odds: 34:1). He's just a shade better than Santorum because of the better polls numbers, but their chances of ultimately winning are nearly the same.

PPFA general election rank--14 of 16. Unlike Santorum, who I ranked last in this category, some good things have actually been said about Mike Huckabee from crossover voters. Those same fiscal issues that make some conservatives skeptical of Huckabee will help make him a bit more realistic in a general election. That being said--he's not too realistic in a general election.

Tier 4--They know they can't win
Number 16
Number 15
Number 14

Tier 3--We know they can't win
Number 13

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