Sunday, May 15, 2011

Huck won't jump in

He likes his paycheck from Fox, the new big house he's building, and the opportunity to be kingmaker instead of king.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Saturday he won't seek the Republican presidential nomination, choosing to stick with a lucrative career as a television and radio personality over a race that would be both costly and caustic. ...

Had he chosen to run, Huckabee would have been forced to give up the lucrative media career he's enjoyed since his unsuccessful presidential bid four years ago. In addition to his TV show, Huckabee hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, gives paid speeches around the country and has even launched a series of animated videos for children on American history.

The talk show is the centerpiece of Huckabee's enterprises, which have made the one-time Baptist preacher from Hope, Ark., and 10-year governor a wealthy man with a $2.2 million beachfront home under construction in Florida. Huckabee, 55, and his wife moved their residency and voter registration to the state last year.

And don't forget the chicken fried steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy, and mmmmm, those triple-scoop banana splits.

“It’s been hard the last several months (keeping the weight from piling back on) because of the crazy schedule and I have had some issues with (my feet),” Huckabee said. “It’s a constant struggle to find decent things to eat on the road and not get terribly messed up with the same old habits.”

His feet. Or maybe his knee. It's important to note that none of these issues about portliness seem to be affecting Chris Christie's dithering. But let's focus on the thin people -- that doesn't necessarily exclude Newt -- going forward.

Huckabee’s decision not to run almost certainly guarantees a more wide-open contest as his vote share, which, in most polling was between 25 and 30 percent, is now up for grabs.

A Huckabee-less field also makes the Iowa caucuses far more competitive as the Arkansas Republican would have been a clear favorite in the state following his surprise victory there in 2008. That’s good news for people like Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — all of whom are expected to make a major push in the Hawkeye State.

The GOP race is now also without a well known social conservative candidate — a void that will be even more pronounced if former Alaska governor Sarah Palin decides against the race. (Palin has set no timetable to make a decision.)

With social conservative voters playing prominent roles in the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary — two of the first four nominating contests — the candidates who do run will position themselves to court this influential vote.

Since Huckabee was my pick for the nomination, I admit I'm crestfallen. Like so many others, picking from the remainder bin leaves me feeling a little empty.

But I do think Rick "Frothy Mixture" Santorum stands to surge.

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