The recent spate of Mike Huckabee-related items on the web reminded me that the former Arkansas governor has almost completely vanished from the political discourse in recent months. Huckabee seems to be feeling the public relations drought as well, hence his recent attempts to reinsert himself into the flow of presidential politics. To this end, Huckabee has taken Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, to task over comments Daniels made suggesting that conservatives should deemphasize social issues, in order to focus on solving the country’s fiscal problems. Huckabee also recently complained to the Des Moines Register that it should not have excluded him from its polling for the next Iowa Caucus.
Why does Huckabee, who polled quite well as a potential future Republican nominee throughout 2009, seem to have slipped from public consciousness a bit? Part of the explanation may be that (as the Des Moines Register suggested in its own defense) Huckabee is no longer behaving like a presidential hopeful, in comparison to others like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, and even Rick Santorum. His own publicly-stated ambivalence (whether genuine, or not) may have unintentionally undercut his future viability as a candidate.
But it may also be the case that Huckabee is an increasingly poor fit for the current conservative mood. His strength as a candidate in 2008 was always in his ability to play well with others by finding common ground, even when there was real disagreement on core issues and values. My sense is that movement conservatives are no longer in any mood to work toward this sort of rapprochement with other political actors; the tea party movement is ample testimony to this fundamental change in the electoral environment. So, Huckabee may now find himself in a position where his two political options are to get tough, or get out. I’m not sure whether Huckabee has reached this realization yet, but he seems to be on his way there.
Note: I'll be away tomorrow, and back posting on Friday. -Dean
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