Mike Huckabee Matters in 2016, Here’s Why

      Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

There are a number of factors that will have a major affect on who runs, and more importantly, who wins the presidential election in 2016. Primary elections can be complex, and there are a number of factors that could alter the path in the coming year.

For example, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert recently discussed how the coming year in Congress could have an impact on 2016 — in particular how the chosen Speaker of the House might influence what gets accomplished and how the Republican party is viewed by the nation as a whole. Whether or not Hillary Clinton chooses to run will have the obvious affect of shuffling the playing field one way or another given her popularity and the type of opponent needed to stand against her versus another Democratic candidate.

If Hillary doesn’t run, it will open the way for a number of Democratic candidates that might otherwise hang back and allow her center stage. Each of those candidates will have their own advantages and disadvantages, and will push the balance slightly to the left or right.

Why do we care about Huckabee?

On the Republican side, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee might prove to be a very important candidate in his own right. Not because he’s likely to take the presidency, or even the primary. No, Huckabee is a noteable candidate because of his own very distinct change to the balance. Specifically, FiveThirtyEight suggests he might draw enough of the conservative vote and split Republicans in such a way so as to make a more moderate Republican — for example Jeb Bush or Chris Christie — a stronger possibility. He may not pull in enough votes to win, but he could alter the chances of other candidates in his party a great deal, and in doing so, change the whole race. Will Huckabee choose to run? When will he decide?

All indications thus far suggest he’s quite serious about running. He recently left his show on Fox News while he considers whether to join the battle. Officially he has yet to make a decision, but there’s no question he’s thinking on it. “I’m not making that announcement right now and my timetable is still just what it was before, later this spring, but I agree with Fox, this is the right thing and now is the right time,” said Huckabee, according to ABC.

During his show, which aired on Saturday previously, he said that if he “were willing to absolutely rule out” running in 2016 he “could keep doing this show, but I can’t make such a declaration.” His timeline, spring of 2015, is slightly later than Clinton’s, who has suggested she’ll consider announcing a decision after the new year — though it keeps being pushed back further and further. It’s possible Huckabee is taking a look at polls and waiting to hear on Clinton and a few other potential candidates in his own party.

What does his policy look like?

Huckabee is anti-abortion and against same-sex marriage, but is open to human influence on climate change. He is against amnesty in immigration reform, and like many conservatives, has been highly, and vocally critical of Obamacare. “The solution to fixing medicine could lie in the past: just pay the doctor yourself and get government out of it. So naturally, the government’s solution: more government,” said Huckabee in a Facebook post.

What do his numbers look like?

On average, FiveThirtyEight gives Huckabee a 13% performance expectation, stronger in Iowa and Alaska at 34% and 22% respectively. His support is strongest amongst southern states or on the border. He also performs better in states with Evangelical populations, according to the Washington Post. But southern states and religious constituents won’t be enough to win him key states. The votes he needs are not the votes he has — but they may be the votes someone else needs and won’t have — and that’s why his name is garnering so much buzz. Congressional elections this year saw similar situations — splitting the vote over two candidates could considerably help a third that might otherwise have struggled in an election.

Why don’t people think he’ll win?

Numbers aside, Huckabee has been in the running before, in 2008. And he was unable to make the financial push needed to expand his local support to a national draw. Given his possible competition this year, no one is betting on his chances this time around having improved, or his capabilities grown. FiveThirtyEight estimates that those states he performed poorly in during the 2008 election aren’t looking improved for a run in 2016.

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