Huckabee must run in 2010 to run in 2012

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee broke into the national spotlight last year as a fresh new face offering straight talk in a charming way, winning the hearts and votes of many conservatives. Since falling short in his initial presidential run, he has landed a cushy, high-profile gig on Fox News Channel at which he excels. In ordinary times, this situation would be perfect for a four-year build-up to a second presidential run.

But these are no ordinary times. The real threat that the Obama Administration and the Pelosi/Reid Congress could permanently transform American capitalism into European socialism and dumb down health care requires a massive electoral reaction at the ballot box in the 2010 off-year election. It is essential that the Pelosi/Reid congressional majorities be reversed, or at least significantly pared back. That happens one seat at a time, and it only happens when viable candidates who can be trusted sacrifice their personal plans to make themselves available to take those seats.

In the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid’s Democrats have a working 60-40 margin that can ram through harmful legislation immune from filibuster. Since senate seats only come up every six years, Republicans can’t yet reclaim the senate seats they lost in the last two cycles. What are up in 2010 are an even mix of seats filled in the last “Republican year” before the Democrat resurgence. That leaves most senate Democrats immune from public outrage in 2010 over Democrat policies and tactics. But Republicans have to defend “open” seats of retiring Republican senators in three states that Obama won handily last year (New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida) and two others (Missouri and Kentucky) where retention could still be challenging. Special situations also put GOP incumbents in Louisiana (sex scandal) and North Carolina (pro-Democratic demographic changes) in some danger. Therefore, Republicans need to take every opportunity to defeat Democrat incumbents in “red states” to give Republicans a chance to win back just the power of filibuster. This is especially true in low-population states where campaigns are not prohibitively expensive. (In contrast, vulnerable Democrat seats in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California would all require more money than Republicans can realistically raise.)

A prime Republican opportunity is the Arkansas senate seat held by two-term Democrat Blanche Lincoln. Elected to an open seat in 1998, a Democrat year fueled by concern over the impending impeachment of home-state President Bill Clinton, and having faced only token opposition in 2004, Lincoln has enjoyed a charmed political life. Two years ago, Republicans failed to field even a token opponent to Sen. Mark Pryor in a year when the Republican presidential ticket carried the state by 20 points. The Arkansas Republican with the personal popularity and gravitas to compete against the incumbent on even terms is Huckabee.

For the moment, Huckabee seems focused on a 2012 presidential run. Make no mistake, running for the Arkansas senate seat would be a huge sacrifice for Huckabee. He would have to give up his (presumably) lucrative Fox News gig that puts him on a national stage in a controlled favorable light mostly before likely Republican primary voters, and do it two years earlier than he would otherwise have to do so. While it would open up a separate fundraising opportunity, it would also deplete all those new resources and more to conduct a 2010 campaign. Also, Huckabee would take a big risk that he could still lose the Arkansas contest. It’s always tough to unseat an incumbent, because “nice” people don’t like to “fire” people from the job they have now. And the political winds could change. If the economy turns around and is cooking again by November, 2010, Democrats will be hard to beat. And ironically, if Obama’s weak national defense exposes us to a major terrorist attack before then, the natural inclination of American voters is to rally around their president, even if he was at fault for exposing us to attack. So taking on Blanche Lincoln is far from a sure thing. And, Huckabee and his strategists may fear, losing to Lincoln in 2010 could damage his 2012 presidential prospects.

But I submit that NOT running in 2010 poses an even greater danger to Huckabee’s 2012 chances. His party NEEDS him, and Republicans appreciate risk-takers. If he takes a personal risk but still loses, people will still appreciate the effort. And if Huckabee unseats Lincoln, he will have helped save the country. And the public demonstrated their willingness to elect a rookie senator to the presidency in 2008.

On the other hand, if Huckabee selfishly puts his personal ambitions ahead of the country’s need to retake control of the U.S. Senate and the second-tier candidate Arkansas Republicans settle for loses, Republicans nationally (specifically including me) will blame Huckabee. This is that rare situation when NOT running in a risky election will effectively disqualify the candidate for later presidential candidacy.

The country needs Mike Huckabee to win Arkansas’ senate seat in 2010. If he doesn’t even try, he doesn’t deserve to carry his party’s standard for president in 2012.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I found your dissertation on the need for someone to take on Blanche Lincoln to be spot on. However, I offfer a few things, you would have made an excellent point if you explained why the current group of Senate wannabees from the Republican part in Arkansas are not up to the task. They are the Keystone Cops of our State GOP. The second point I would make, is support for Huck, just isn’t there anymore in this state. Even mambers of the Huck Army are voicing disent about his fund-raising capabilities and his loss fo focus at the State Level. He has been Nationalized so to speak and that is where he should remain. Get the conservative voice out to the rest of the country. Finally, I think you also could have made a great case for the rise of the independent, especially one with conservative values, one who is a bridge builder like Trevor Drown. He dare to make a difference leadership style is already galvinizing the people and a populist grass roots movement is growing. The largest voting block in this state are the opitionals or independents. More than 93 percent of the registered voters choose over party. Theis is what has the Republicans petrified. They are within two years of becoming a minor party in the state, much like the Objectivist Party. Looked at with a smile, but not taken seriouslly.

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  2. I don’t know the Arkansas well, but seeing Huckabee on TV transformed me in New York. I would beg to disagree with you. I can see why you would want him to be a local leader, but he is reaching people in an important way and time right now with an national audience. I might of never known him otherwise beyond being a failed candidate. I am going to vote for him or Palin even if he doesn’t make you happy. As a Jew in NY I can tell you that I don’t think Israel can survive losing America for another four years. sorry to tell you this. I like NY and Israel better then I like Arkansas. nothing personal

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  3. PS… I’m kidding about my priorities. I just find it hard to believe that Huckabee is your last hope in Arkansas.

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  4. Posted by GC Crazy on December 5, 2009 at 3:10 am

    I guess this is moot now that Huckabee has been Willie Horton’d.

    On a more substantive note, here’s a problem: You are suggesting that he run for Senate and then, essentially immediately begin running for president (pretty much a two year process nowadays). So how is he supposed to represent Arkansas? Also you are saying he runs for an office with a 6-year term but only really expecting to “serve” two years. I am from Arizona and we had Sen. McCain who missed something like 2/3 of the votes last year when running for President. Would rather be represented by someone who will actually be there to cast votes that represent me.

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