Huckabee Cliffhanger Will Alter GOP Landscape for 2012

Friday, 13 May 2011 05:10 PM

By David A. Patten

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Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will announce Saturday whether he’s in or out of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination -- and the consensus among most Beltway wags is that Huckabee has decided to stay put on the sidelines.

“My gut tells me he’s not in,” Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who managed Huckabee’s campaign in 2008, told Reuters.

Rollins stresses, however, that he hasn’t been in touch with Mike Huckabee, 2012 Presidential ElectionHuckabee regarding his imminent decision.

Huckabee advised listeners on his Friday radio show, “The Huckabee Report,” to tune into his Fox TV program to hear “a very important announcement” this Saturday.

Any doubt over the subject of that announcement soon vanished, as the executive producer of the Fox News “Huckabee” show, Woody Fraser, released a statement that “Governor Huckabee will announce tomorrow night on his program whether or not he intends to explore a presidential bid."

Fraser said Huckabee has not yet revealed his decision to anyone at Fox News, however.

Most pundits are jumping to the conclusion that Huckabee will embrace his viewers and his role on Fox News, then announce that he has decided not to seek a return engagement in GOP politics.

In 2008, Huckabee won the second largest number of GOP delegates behind eventual nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Huckabee has polled well among likely GOP primary voters, especially in Iowa where he won the caucuses in the 2008 cycle.

Most analysts say it is unlikely Huckabee would announce his candidacy for the nomination during his Fox News program. Doing so, they say, would tend to link Huckabee’s political activities to the Fox brand.

“I cannot imagine it’s an, ‘I’m running for president’ announcement,” former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley told the Washington Post’s The Fix blog. “I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t think so.”

News that Huckabee would announce his decision on Saturday caught some pundits by surprise. As recently as Thursday, US News & World Report carried a story that Huckabee was in no rush and might wait until June or July.

But stepped up political maneuvering by President Barack Obama, combined with recent announcements by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appear to have broken the GOP’s “who goes first” logjam.

In a Fox News appearance with Neil Cavuto late Friday afternoon, Huckabee confirmed that he would make his announcement on his program Saturday. He declined to release other details, except to say that even the producers of his program don’t know his decision yet.

Huckabee has made no secret that he’s enjoyed his work in the media, and would be hesitant to give it up for the blood sport of American politics. In an exclusive Newsmax interview in February, he predicted the GOP primary would be a “demolition derby.”

“If it were all about how can we get that guy in Michigan a job, what we can do to really secure our borders, how can we deal with the spreading unrest in the Middle East – if those were the issues that I knew I would be focused on to run for president, I’d probably be out there making the announcement today.

“But I’ve done this before,” he told Newsmax, “and unfortunately a lot of time is spent defending oneself against these ridiculous decisions that come from one of 10,000 decisions that maybe were made when I was governor, distorted and contorted, and the next thing you know you’re not talking about the things that really matter….”

If Huckabee does decide to skip the battle for the nomination, it will have a major impact on the GOP field.

As a former Baptist minister, Huckabee perhaps more than any other Republican has won the backing of his party’s mainstream Christian conservatives.

With Huckabee out of the equation, the candidacies of others hoping to woo the GOP’s evangelical vote, such as former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann, would figure to receive a significant boost.

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