A nice catch by Phil Kerpen. Trump’s schedule next week looks almost exactly how you’d expect a candidate’s schedule to look: Tuesday in New Hampshire, Thursday in New Hampshire, Friday in South Carolina, back in New Hampshire on Monday. He hasn’t said yet if he’ll show for the debate next Saturday, but if he’s in then he’ll be in New Hampshire that day as well. The one odd outlier is Wednesday — Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas is an early-ish state too this year, part of the “SEC primary” on March 1st, but there’s still NH, SC, and Nevada to come before we get to the deep south. Why would Trump detour down there when he could spend the day in Charleston or Vegas?
Why, Mike Huckabee’s from Arkansas, come to think of it. And the Trump event in Little Rock seems to have been added only within the past 24 hours or so, right around the time Huckabee was reaching out to Trump about attending his rally for vets last night. Probably no one in the field has attacked Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz, more doggedly over the last few weeks than Huckabee. Rubio’s hit him hard too, but Rubio and Cruz are battling to be the anti-Trump and there are lines even Rubio won’t cross in hitting Cruz, like his “natural-born” eligibility. Huckabee’s attacking Cruz for the sheer spiteful joy of wrecking the guy whom the evangelical establishment chose over him, and he has backed Trump up on Cruz’s eligibility by saying it’s a legitimate issue. Why, ol’ Huck even plugged Trump’s line of ties at the debate in October. Hmmm.
I enjoyed Erick Erickson’s takedown of Huckabee and Santorum for appearing at Trump’s event last night, but I wonder if he’s misunderstood the arrangement:
At the event, with a sign on the podium that read “TRUMP” and “Make America Great Again,” Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum entered to play second fiddle to Trump’s well tuned music. They met their Zod and kneeled.
Doing so, to both men, may be no big deal or may be more media exposure. But it actually declares the ends of their campaigns days before the Iowa caucuses. They were subservient to Donald Trump, not equals. Their names did not appear on the podium, only Trump’s. The crowd was not there to see these men. The crowd was there to see Trump.
Like conquered kings paraded in a Triumph through the streets of Rome, Santorum and Huckabee were paraded through Drake University, now the vassals of Donald Trump.
Maybe that’s true of Santorum, but what if Huckabee made an agreement with Trump recently to support him after Iowa if his own campaign ends up never taking off? We’ve all been interpreting Huck’s endless shots at Cruz as a product of bitterness, but maybe they’re more strategic than that. Until recently I assumed that Huckabee would endorse Rubio once he dropped out, partly as thanks for Rubio endorsing Huckabee in 2008 and partly because Rubio has traditionally been seen as the biggest threat to Cruz. Lately, though, respect for Trump’s chances at winning the nomination has risen; he leads Rubio in prediction markets, meaning that if you were all about stopping Cruz, Trump’s arguably your best bet at this point. Trump’s favor is probably also worth more to Huckabee than Rubio’s is, just as Huckabee’s favor is worth more to Trump than it is to Rubio. If Huck endorses Rubio, he gets some warm words and maybe a couple of rallies with the candidate if Rubio goes on to win the nomination. But Rubio doesn’t need Huck; he’s got plenty of socially conservative cred in his own right. Trump, glaringly, does not, and he may need some if he intends to turn out southern Christians in the same numbers that other Republican nominees have. And even if Trump flames out of the race, he’s likely to reward Huckabee with some valuable interviews if/when Huck gets back into media.
In fact, here’s a freaky deaky possibility for you: What if Huckabee thinks he has a chance at being Trump’s VP? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Think about Trump’s liabilities in the general election: He has no experience as a public office-holder; his credentials among the Christian base are shaky; and Democrats are sure to try to neutralize his blue-collar appeal by painting him as a Manhattan fatcat. Huckabee was born and raised blue-collar in rural America and ran as the blue-collar populist candidate eight years ago, using Mitt Romney as his foil. He’s one of the most prominent Christian voices in American politics, for better or worse, even after losing favor among other Christian leaders to Cruz. And he was a governor longer than anyone else in the race this year except Rick Perry. He’s also famously deft in handling the media, a quality which Trump would prize. If Trump’s the nominee, why would he choose some garden-variety Republican pol when he could have another guy who often annoys the establishment and who was talking about reaching out to the working class in 2008 while most of the rest of the GOP was yammering on about entrepreneurs?
Via MFP, here’s Huckabee doing what Huckabee does these days, namely, arguing that Ted Cruz’s flip-flops are somehow a greater threat to conservatism than socially liberal Democratic crony Donald Trump. Exit question: Is the Jeff Sessions endorsement eventually coming for Trump too? Sessions says he’s torn. He has a month to decide.