There’s clear evidence that Mike Huckabee is taking the prospect of running for president more seriously now than a few months ago. The question is whether it’s too late.
He’s planning a meet-and-greet with GOP members of Congress at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington next week, along with a fundraiser for his political action committee. He’s held meetings with prospective donors in New York. And his advisers are telling would-be supporters to keep their powder dry until a summer decision, with a potential August announcement.
Still, Huckabee’s months of silence, his mixed signals and his politically questionable feud with conservative commentator Glenn Beck has left many Republicans wondering if he’s waited too long—and whether he has the fire in the belly for a grueling second presidential campaign.
Huckabee further fueled that speculation on Friday when he spoke to Fox News about people proclaiming to know his intentions. “They know something I don’t know. What I know is the country is in a world of hurt…whether I’m the best person to take that challenge on is something I haven’t yet determined.”
Ed Rollins, a senior adviser to Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, said he and the former governor have held “planning” meetings, and insisted – despite Mitt Romney’s moves to secure the majority of the major donors and bundlers – that financial support would be there if he runs.
“I’m confident (we) could put together a campaign in about a week,” said Rollins.
“He’s genuinely undecided but I think moving toward running,” insisted one source close to Huckabee.
The former Arkansas governor has been encouraged by big crowds on his book tour and – most significantly – by poll numbers that have consistently showed him at the top. He’s also benefited from luck and timing, with a race that’s been reshaped by the departure of another Southerner, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Supporters believe an announcement anytime soon would simply make him a media target and that the Donald Trump media circus, along with Mitt Romney’s slow-walk toward a formal campaign, have given him some cover to delay.
One factor casting a shadow over a potential Huckabee bid is the question of how close he can approach a run unofficially without risking a Fox contract suspension as with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Unlike some of the other 2012 hopefuls, Huckabee needs the income, as he has said many times, and is clearly mindful of his show’s ratings – he has invited Donald Trump on as a guest next week, the developer told POLITICO.
Since Huckabee’s political capital and salability as a media commodity will decrease when he announces a decision one way or the other, he has added incentive to wait.
“Clearly the Fox thing is getting to be some pressure,” acknowledged Rollins, but he maintained it was not necessarily the deal-breaker it’s perceived by some to be.