Mike Huckabee may not wage a second campaign for the Republican nomination for president and the former Arkansas governor is expected to announce his plans as early as tomorrow on his popular cable program. Huckabee announced today that viewers of his program on Fox News should stay tuned for an important announcement this weekend.
“Governor Huckabee will announce tomorrow night on his program whether or not he intends to explore a presidential bid,” Woody Fraser, the executive producer of “Huckabee” said in a statement. “He has not told anyone at FOX News Channel his decision.”
However, Ed Rollins, the republican campaign consultant who helped Huckabee in 2008, tells the Wall St. Journal his guess is the governor will announce he will not run.
“I’ve heard nothing, which indicates to me he’s not running,” he said, adding that Huckabee has not given him consistent indications he’s running for president.
Rollins said Huckabee seemed “fully engaged” a month ago in a potential presidential campaign but, two weeks ago, “he started backing off, but he still wanted to go through, could he raise the money, could he put together the operatives.”
Still, Rollins told the WSJ all the answers to those questions were yes, at the time, and that they focused on winning Iowa and doing well in South Carolina and Florida after that.
“There was absolutely nothing that I told him that would back him away from doing the race,” Mr. Rollins said. “If he said tomorrow night, ‘I’m running,’ and came to me, I could put together a campaign in week.”
UPDATE: Huckabee himself appeared on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto show this afternoon and said people who claim to know what he will announce may be wrong.
“You’re gonna hear people who act like they know all about it and they don’t,” Huckabee said, adding that he hadn’t even informed his family of the plans until today.
The governor also criticized likely candidate Mitt Romney’s speech on health care.
“I’m not sure that he succeeded in explaining it,” Huckabee said, referring to a Wall Street Journal editorial he said “took [Romney] apart.”
“I felt that if Mitt Romney would come out and say, ‘We tried this in Massachusetts. That’s what states are supposed to do, is be laboratories of democracy. And we attempted this and it hasn’t really worked like we thought. So it’s not a good idea to try it on the national level,’ that would have been a smart play,” he said.
Rolling also talked with the New York Times: “I have no idea,” he said about whether Huckabee is running. “There was a tremendous opportunity for him to be a viable, credible candidate. I think Mike has got unique talents but he just didn’t have the fire in the belly. I can’t want it more than the candidate does.”
Huckabee is considerably popular with pro-life advocates and won a large percentage of the evangelical and conservative vote on his way to capturing the Iowa caucuses to start the 2008 Republican nomination campaign last time around. But Huckabee’s absence would leave open a gaping hole that candidates like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain would try to fill as they compete for votes from pro-life advocates. They’re seen as more likely to find support from pro-life voters than more moderate potential candidates like Mitt Romney or Mitch Daniels.
Huckabee’s departure from the race would also considerable shake up the polls as he is seen as one of the leading candidates both nationally and in many early primary and caucus states. His vacancy from the race would leave as much as 15-20 percent of the Republican electorate looking for a new candidate to support as the race moves forward to the Iowa straw poll in Ames in August.
The delay in making an announcement hasn’t crippled a potential campaign for the governor, but he has seen many of his 2008 advisors and activist supporters move to other candidates who have moved ahead with campaigns or potential campaigns already. Huckabee still has the makings of a campaign team in place and some of those former supporters could come back to him, but the late start definitely would put him at a small disadvantage.
Some political observers say they would not be surprised if Huckabee did not run — saying he is finally in a stable financial position with the show and popular books he’s written and they note he started a company just this week that focuses on making historical videos aimed at children. Huckabee could find private life with a more solid financial footing more appealing than having to raise funds for another political campaign and having to end his Fox news show to do so.