Huckabee for president? Why 2016 won't be like 2008

Former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee says in early May he will announce whether or not he's running for president. After his unsuccessful attempt in 2008, what will factor into Huckabee's decision?

J. David Ake/AP
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks to reporters during a roundtable discussion in Washington, Friday April 17, 2015.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he will announce in May whether or not he will launch a presidential bid.

If the Republican politician intends to run, as he did unsuccessfully in 2008, he said he is already in a better position than he was seven years ago. So what is different this time around?

After stepping down from his paid position as a Fox News host and hinting at the possibility for months, many view this pre-announcement as verification for his running. However, Huckabee has said he will make his intentions known on May 5.

“May 5 is the day when I will make an announcement,” Huckabee said on Friday, reported the Associated Press. “I hope people will come to Hope, Arkansas, and not just to tour the Bill Clinton birthplace. But there's going to be an announcement that day, and everyone will know after then for sure whether Mike Huckabee is in the race or not.”

Huckabee is likely to leverage his Arkansas roots (and those of the Clintons) to make the case that he's best positioned to unseat Hillary Clinton. 

“Governor Huckabee would be well-equipped to run against the Clinton machine since he has overcome it on several occasions in which he won elections that they campaigned against him or against individuals who he supported,” said Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas.

In 2008, Huckabee started the campaign strong, winning the Iowa caucuses after spending only $1 million (for reference, GOP contender Mitt Romney spent about 15 times that amount). However, his campaign essentially fizzled out along with campaign contributions. Still, he finished second to Sen. John McCain in the Republican primaries delegate count.

This time around, Huckabee acknowledges that he will need major campaign dollars if he hopes to win the bid. Like other candidates, that money is likely to come from a super PAC, and he will likely need a larger pool of donors than in 20o8. But he says he wants to keep costs down. According to Real Clear Politics, he explained:

“I don’t think I need to raise the same amount of funds as some of the other candidates, because I know how politics works. Some people will raise so much money, they will have more money than they know what to do with, and they will waste a bunch of it and blow through it and run a very inefficient organization … We want to be efficient. I want to be as frugal as I wish the government would be.”

Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, also has the support of many evangelical voters, a demographic he appealed to in 2008. He said he also received the support of voters who are traditionally more liberal, and hopes to appeal to them again in 2016 if he decides to run.

“I also think that I’ve got an opportunity to bring some people into the fold that are not historically Republican voters,” Huckabee said, reported Real Clear Politics. “I go back to the number of African-American votes that I got in Arkansas. I had a strong Hispanic following in Arkansas. Maybe even union members.”  

While he may be better positioned to run, Huckabee still faces significant challenges if he runs. Both former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have expressed focusing on social conservatives, meaning the three may be vying for the same votes.

Regardless, Huckabee said he will only run if he feels his campaign finances are sufficient to be a serious contender. “I don't want to jump in a pool that doesn't have any water in it. It doesn't make for a very pleasant swim,” Huckabee said, reported the Associated Press.

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