Mike Huckabee’s 2008 national campaign chairman Ed Rollins says that time has passed the former Arkansas governor by for another bid for president and that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s unannounced candidacy is definitely "on the rise."
"Gov. Walker is a very serious candidate and already dwarfs a lot of the Republican prospects," Rollins told Newsmax on Monday, "I could see him emerging as one of the three or four most serious challengers and possibly becoming the conservative alternative to Jeb Bush."
This reporter reminded Rollins of an exchange he had with him in ’08, after John McCain had wrapped up the GOP nomination and Rollins’ man Huckabee had spoken to a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. At that time, Rollins told this reporter Huckabee reminded him of a "young Reagan" and that he felt the former Arkansas governor had a "great future" if he ran for president in the future.
"I remember, and I was very supportive of Mike running again in '12," Rollins told us, "He would have been very viable that year as an alternative to the other candidates [for nomination]. But now there are other candidates more viable and more current. And if you’ve been watching Mike on TV or listening to him on the radio for the last several years, there is not quite the intensity there was in the past."
Rollins added that the man whose '08 campaign he chaired "hates raising money, just hates it. And he has done nothing whatsoever in the last seven years to change that."
Rollins, who managed President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984 and was head of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the early '90s, said he felt that the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination could easily come down to Bush versus Walker.
"Gov. Bush has the potential to raise a boatload of money from the pro-Wall Street part of the party," he told us, "but there is also an increasingly strong anti-establishment beneficiary among the Republican grass-roots."
Walker, Rollins believes, can become the beneficiary of this sentiment and also become the favorite of younger voters.
"You have to listen to the speech he made in Iowa last month that drew so much attention," he explained, "He said that while many say what they’re going to do, Gov. Walker said ‘here’s what I have done.’ And in reforming [Wisconsin’s pension and health care programs], he got his state out of the red and now, in effect, is saying ‘I welcome a debate on fiscal issues.’
"Although moral issues are important, they are less important now to younger voters, who are looking primarily for someone who is fiscally conservative and has a program that will leave something for them in the future."
Also working in Walker’s favor, said Rollins, is that "he has been tested three times in five years [his 2010 election as governor, triumph in the '12 recall election, and re-election last fall] and he is putting together a very talented team. [Veteran GOP pollster] Ed Goeas is on his team, and Dave Galanski, who ran [Iowa Sen.] Joni Ernst’s winning race last year, is overseeing his Iowa operation."
Although many Republicans hope for a quick wrap-up of the ’16 nomination by any candidate, Rollins insists "we can afford a long and heated contest. We’ve got the most talented field of candidates for president since 1980."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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