To believe that Huckabee would kickstart a grueling, 15-month, fabulously expensive political odyssey against a president whom he concedes will be tough to beat simply to stick a thumb in Mitt’s eye, you’d have to believe his hatred of Romney is pathological. C’mon.
At best, it’s almost pathological. At best.
“[Huckabee] hates Mitt, and his goal in Iowa last time was to stop him,” said one prominent Republican, who’s known both men for years. “If he sees an opportunity to cut Mitt off [during the nominating process], he will take it.”
Huckabee and Romney were never exactly pals before the Iowa caucuses two years ago — and none of the other contenders had much affection for Romney either — but the battle for the Hawkeye State permanently turned the former Massachusetts governor and Huckabee into lasting enemies, sources say.
As Huckabee weighs whether to run again, several Republicans with ties to Huckabee say his disdain for Romney is a real factor in his decision-making about whether to mount a second campaign for the White House.
Huckabee’s PAC spokesman calls it “beyond absurd.” In fact, the real story du jour about Huck 2012 is how reluctant he sounds about running. One of the people at Conservatives4Palin has been insisting to me for months that Huck won’t run, that plenty of signs are there if you’re just willing to look for them. Which is true — no major fundraising happening, no organization in Iowa, booked for a cruise in the middle of the summer when most candidates will (presumably) already have jumped in. But of course, Palinistas are desperately invested in Huckabee staying out, so maybe they’re reading more into those signs than they should. Maybe Huckabee’s just lying low for now, being coy so that his late entry into the race will be extra dramatic.
Or … maybe not:
More important, in answer to this and other questions, Huckabee sounded like a wary, skeptical guy who didn’t have the stomach for the grueling humiliations of a presidential run. That’s a normal reaction for a sane human being, but the kiss of death for someone hoping to be taken seriously by the donors and strategists and writers who make up the boiler room of politics.
He said that he doesn’t like and isn’t good at asking donors for contributions, and that he was infuriated by the often substance-free 11 debates he took part in during the 2008 campaign. “In all of those debates there wasn’t a single question about education, and only one about health care — which turned out to be the most important topic,” he said…
Organizationally, Huckabee said he had been “listening to operatives,” which he made sound about as enjoyable as cold calls. He said that he was wary of “weather-worn” consultants who had done campaigns, and added, almost wistfully, that what he loved about his 2008 effort was that it attracted “idealistic, young and energetic” kids who “didn’t know what they could not do.”…
In all, Huckabee convinced me that his distaste and hesitation were real, not primarily strategic.
He didn’t sound enthused in an interview with WaPo’s Karen Tumulty either, lamenting the cost of the campaign and even gently chiding tea partiers by wondering if their “ultraorthodoxy” would make governing impossible. (He also praised them for their “energy.”) The problem with jumping in late, of course, is that the big donors whom Huck needs to bankroll his campaign will likely have already committed to other candidates, so unless he has some ingenious grassroots fundraising strategy in reserve, he may find himself frozen out, say, four months from now if the itch to run suddenly hits him.
Exit question one: How, exactly, would Huck jumping in late to stop Mitt actually hurt Romney? If anything, it would help Romney by dividing his social conservative opposition. It would only make sense to run if Mitt had already basically vanquished the rest of the field — and by then, a late entry would be way too late. Exit question two: Will Huckabee’s absence from the race entice any social conservatives to jump in? Bachmann’s been toying with running, but I’ve never thought she was serious. Maybe now she’ll sense an opportunity and feel obliged to try it.