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Eye On Candidates
May 5, 2015

Huckabee To Announce 2016 Campaign Today

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is expected to announce today he is running for President in 2016, bringing to six the number of Republicans who have declared their candidacies. Bloomberg Politics has a 'scouting report' on Huckabee that summarizes some of his strengths and vulnerabilities:

The Definitive Mike Huckabee Scouting Report

What he’s got: Affability, humor, and folksy charm galore; arguably the best communication skills—on TV, on the stump, or in retail settings—of any Republican 2016er; executive experience as a two-term-plus Arkansas governor; demonstrated presidential vote-getting capacity as winner of the Iowa caucuses and overall delegate runner-up in the 2008 GOP nomination contest; high name recognition among Republicans due to that campaign and more than six years afterward as a Fox News host, syndicated radio personality, and author; status as an ordained Southern Baptist minister and adamant social conservative views that provide him with deep ties to, and a base of support within, the evangelical community.

What he lacks: Establishment support; national security credentials; convincing defenses of elements of his Arkansas record (on taxes and prisoner clemency, for example) that make him vulnerable to conservative attacks; enthusiasm for, or even tolerance of, asking rich people for money; a path to the Republican nomination that doesn’t involve a repeat victory in Iowa; proven appeal to voters beyond his core of evangelical supporters; ability to conceal the Gibraltar-sized chip on his shoulder regarding his treatment by much of his party and the mainstream media...

Regarding his perceived inability to reach beyond his core social conservative base in seeking the nomination, the report offers two items that should be of concern to Huckabee fans: there are other candidates who are seen as just as good on social issues, and Huckabee's zest for challenging the more growth- and free market-oriented wings of the Republican Party:

Biggest question marks: Can he maintain, let alone expand, his universe of voters in a field crowded with contenders—Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker—who threaten to chip away at his Christian conservative base?

Challenges party orthodoxy: His suspicion of trade deals, refusal to embrace tax cuts for the wealthy or rule out raising the minimum wage, and reluctance to embrace stringent reforms of Medicare and Social Security all place him to the left of the Republican mainstream. Ritually trashes the Club for Growth as “suicide bombers” and “the Club for Greed.”

As the report notes, however, Huckabee is as skilled a communicator as anyone in the field, and at the very least he's likely to be a serious player in the 2016 process.