The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
If former Southern Baptist preacher and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee can float trial balloons and turn his attention to the presidential election of 2016 before the 2014 midterm elections are in the bag, what the heck? It’s about time we started talking about it anyway. Every other news organization in America is already gearing up for that traffic gravy train.
And let’s face it. There’s a lot at stake.
Huckabee, now known mostly for being a right-wing Conservative Christian talking head on Fox News, has not been a factor in national politics since the Republican primaries of 2008, where he made a splash by coming in second in the Iowa caucuses. That gained him celebrity status and elevated him from being just another small time right-wing radio talk show host to cable television, where he reportedly earns in the neighborhood of half a million dollars a year.
It’s amazing what nonsense people will pay for in America these days.
He abandoned his home state of Arkansas to a beachfront spread on the Florida Gulf Coast, and political insiders say chances are he will not give up that income to actually run for president. You can’t get paid as a media personality and run for public office at the same time. That would be, um, unethical and illegal — and not even Fox News would be allowed to let him get away with that.
So rather than taking a leave of absence from Fox to start trying to raise enough money to pay the expenses of running a national political campaign, what’s a political celebrity to do? Easy. Con the New York Times into doing an interview floating a trial balloon that you are considering a run.
“I’m keeping the door open,” Mr. Huckabee told the Times. “I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me.”
Right. He said he would not run again unless he could finance a “durable” campaign.
Mr. Huckabee, 58, is considered a “strict conservative” on social issues, but he has been criticized by fiscal conservative groups for his stance on some economic issues. Huckabee has staked out a position as a pragmatist, criticizing some radical conservative groups like the Club for Growth. As a result, that group has reportedly already revived its campaign to start bashing Huckabee to prevent him from gaining enough financial support to run another campaign.
Huckabee did not run in 2012, saying he didn’t think incumbent President Barack Obama could be beaten. But he also admits enjoying the lifestyle of a rich celebrity on television.
Yet what’s to stop him from pretending to toss his hat back into the political ring to keep those viewers and sponsors coming back? Only a true watchdog press in America that does not fall for political nonsense.
The last time I wrote anything related to Huckabee, who I consider to be too small time with no real practical experience qualifying him to be seriously considered for president, was when I broke the story that his campaign organization took over Robert Bentley’s general election campaign in Alabama in 2010. That story was cited and linked to in the Washington Post, the National Journal and other places all over the country and the world.
Bryan Sanders, who served as a top aide in Huckabee’s presidential campaign and is married to Sarah Huckabee, the former governor’s daughter, took over the role of campaign manager and fired David Ferguson. Along with Steven Berry and Sally Albright, he elevated Bentley from the back bench of the Alabama legislature to Republican nominee for governor.
They accomplished this largely on a campaign claiming that if elected, the rich dermatologist from Tuscaloosa would not take a pay check until the state hit full employment, or 5 percent unemployment.
Sanders brought with him Bob Wickers, another Huckabee adviser who was a principal at the consulting firm where Sanders was employed, as press secretary for Bentley’s campaign, which went on to defeat Democrat Ron Sparks handily in the general election.
Ron Sparks did not listen to editorial advice to take on the Republicans and corporations like BP for the Gulf Oil Disaster of 2010. He ran a lackluster milk toast soft campaign and Bentley won with 58 percent to 42 percent of the vote.
As of this writing, the Alabama unemployment rate stands at 6.5 percent, two points higher than the national rate of 6.3 percent. So there does not appear to be much hope that Bentley will ever collect his salary as he runs for reelection this November.
As far as I know, there has never been an announcement or a story explaining exactly where the governor’s salary is going, but it’s a fair bet its not being deposited in the state General Fund, at least not yet. Sources say it is being held in escrow for Bentley to collect — if he ever reaches the goal of a 5 percent unemployment rate. What will happen to the money if it never reaches that level, or if Bentley is defeated in his reelection bid in November?
Nobody seems to know, and the mainstream news media in the state is not bothering to ask.
Now sources say there is a story in the works from national news organizations documenting similar pay-to-play schemes on Huckabee’s part where he has tried to build a national campaign organization by having his people help other Republicans around the country win state and local races. Inside the Washington Beltway sources tell me that Politico is sitting on a story, waiting to see if Huckabee announces for president.
But what if he doesn’t announce, which seems unlikely?
Interestingly, if you Google Mike Huckabee and pay-to-play, you find stories about Huckabee criticizing other conservative Political Action Committees (PACs) for engaging in pay-to-play.
I’m wondering where Karl Rove stands on the subject, along with his buddies the Koch Brothers?
From all the trial balloons out of the Bush camp, it’s obvious that Jeb Bush is more than toying with a run in 2016. And reading between the lines of all the headlines so far, the plan is to run Jeb to the left of the tea party as more of a Chamber of Commerce, mainstream conservative, who might get a significant percentage of the Latino vote. He married Mexican born Columba Garnica Gallo, and he speaks fluent Spanish. His brother George Bush got 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and 40 percent in 2004, the most ever for a Republican.
The general election of 2016 is already shaping up as a contest between Jeb and Hillary Clinton. Not a day goes by that there are not stories out there on the Web about Hillary. It is a veritable drumbeat.
Personally, I would like to see some other names and faces in the race, like Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.
On the Republican side, Texas tea party Senator Ted Cruz is getting a lot of the attention, but Rick Santorum will no doubt be back as the Christian Right choice.
I would bet the full 12-pack right now that Huckabee will remain on the sidelines and keep his Fox News income. Ditto Sarah Palin. Who needs the grief of a presidential campaign when you already got rich off the political process?
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.