Mike Huckabee Talks 2016, But Is Anyone Listening?

Mike Huckabee keeps talking about 2016, but does anyone care if he runs?

ByAnneta Konstantinides
December 13, 2013, 3:42 PM
PHOTO: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee gives his speech on the third night of the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Aug. 29, 2012.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee gives his speech on the third night of the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Aug. 29, 2012.
Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images

Dec. 14, 2013— -- Mike Huckabee is talking plenty about a potential 2016 presidential run, but is anyone still listening?

The former governor of Arkansas admitted he's "keeping the door open" to seeking a nomination, telling the New York Times on Thursday that he's "mindful of the fact that there's a real opportunity for me."

Opportunity seems to be the big question in a Republican field that already seems to be packed with potentials like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Though Huckabee's name hasn't come up in 2016 conversation, Republican strategist Matt Mackiowiak told ABC News he could be "undervalued stock on the Republican ticket" due to the larger profile he's built up since running in 2008 thanks to speaking tours, a weekend program on Fox News, and a recently-ended radio program.

Huckabee told the New York Times that the recent wealth he has enjoyed from his media and speaking endeavors, along with the rising of super PACs, is contributing to his consideration for a second run, a seeming security blanket in comparison to the 2008 campaign that was crippled by low finances.

It's a sentiment Huckabee's 2008 campaign manager, Chip Saltsman, seemed to touch on as he told ABC News he was excited about the possibility, and that he's been encouraging Huckabee "to look at this for years."

"He obviously thought long and hard about it in 2012, it just wasn't the right time in 2012 and at the end of the day he's gotta have that fire of the belly."

But Mackiowiak notes that this new wealth might also cause Huckabee to step back from running.

"Is there a path to nomination? At the end of the day that's going to drive his decision," said Mackiowiak. "If he's not convinced that that exists, I don't see him giving up everything he's built in the last five years…if he sees a path where he wins, that path is a possibility."

Mackiowiak said Huckabee's potential in important states like Iowa and South Carolina is strong, with both the backing of faith leaders, who he notes are major influencers in these evangelical states, and an added layer of electability that other far-right candidates lack thanks to his "welcoming bedside manner, economic populist streak, and blue-collar upbringing story."

Georgetown professor Hans Noel, author of "Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America," is less convinced, telling ABC News, the Christian conservatives "were not powerful enough to get Huckabee the nomination in 2008, and they are not vastly more powerful now."

And though Tea Party-backed fiscal conservative group Club for Growth has already responded to Huckabee's potential interest by re-relasing their 2008 record pointing out past policies like raising the minimum wage and increasing state spending—Noel says questions as to Huckabee's conservatism are a non-issue.

"He's had enough time to convince people he's a true conservative all the way through. His past populist policies won't be what sinks him. I don't think important players in the Republican Party are going to take him seriously at all."

Saltsman said no decision will be made until after the 2014 elections, but Mackiowiak believes the answer will boil down to four questions: Does Huckabee see a path, does he want to take that path, is he willing to risk everything for that path, and does he have the confidence this time around to raise the big bucks to make that path a reality?

It seems, at least, he's getting closer to answering the second question.

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