There has been quite a bit of tea leaf reading and constant prognostication about the meaning of a recent Newsweek/Daily Beast poll which put many of the most prominent potential GOP Presidential candidates up against President Obama in a possible 2012 match up. Of some surprise is the closeness of the margins as Obama runs dead heat with some folks – including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In the poll, Huckabee and Obama are tied at 46 percent each.
Another surprise: a name that hasn’t even started putting any operation or public relations together is real estate and casino mogul Donald Trump. Obama beats Trump, but only 43 percent to 40 percent. That can be perceived as extremely problematic for this White House’s current re-election efforts if a candidate with no political background and mainly known for hit TV show is polling strong.
Trump, for his part, expressed little surprise by the poll as he has put out public feelers hinting at a possible bid into the GOP primary.
“The poll came out, and we’re in a virtual tie and I haven’t campaigned,” quipped Trump during a CNN interview. “I’m not really, despite that, that surprised, because it’s a message of common sense. We can have a great country again, the problem is we don’t have the right leadership. We don’t have the right leaders. We don’t have people that have any semblance of negotiation.”
In that same poll, Obama is matched up against the likes of Mitt Romney, 49 percent to 47 percent while easily crushing Sarah Palin, 51 percent to 40 percent.
The good news for the White House is their consistent besting of Palin, who has been named as a possible Presidential contender but has also been plagued by a non-stop number of gaffes on her part, including a stumbled reaction to the recent Tuscon shooting tragedy. While Palin might still carry weight within the very conservative wing of the GOP, her national numbers don’t reflect any meaningful influence in the larger party.
Despite all the speculation over Huckabee this past week, there is a considerable amount of intelligence suggesting Huckabee won’t run in 2012. Sources close to Huckabee suggest he’s considering it – if he hasn’t already considered it.
But, his recent and bizarre mix of praise and defense of the Obamas suggest he must be pulling away from a bid, as he breaks one of the cardinal rules of the contemporary conservative movement. From predicting the President would be hard to beat, to defending Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity programs, Huckabee has a love for the White House obviously unsurpassed by any of the other potential contenders.
And his most recent comments during a Christianity Today interview in which he felt opinions on former Obama pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright were misplaced are touching off a firestorm from hardline conservatives: “If people went back and heard every sermon I heard when I was a little kid and some of the more fundamentalist pastors were yelling from the pulpit at me, if they took every one of those sermons and lifted out of them certain phrases and things, it could be scandalous, but only out of the context of the bigger picture.”
The hate for the President and First Lady is so intense within the conservative movement that Huckabee’s comments would be viewed as a death knell for any candidacy in the GOP primary.
But, if anything, his recent public musings are a way to generate more interest in the Huckabee brand and the Huckabee voice. It’s a modest version of Glenn Beck 2.0, but not as forceful or blunt or tasteless. Still, it drives the center-right and independent folks, perhaps even a few curious or admiring progressives, to peep his show while driving up ratings. He’s making more money than he’s ever seen and, for the modest Huckabee, that’s a good spot to be in. Who says you have to be in the White House to dominate the national discourse?
Praising the Obamas is already sacrosanct within the conservative community, so he can forget a primary win, particularly with Tea Party regulars certain to dominate into 2012. Plus, he’s not the best fundraiser, which does not work to his advantage against folks like Romney.
So, let’s get like Busta Rhymes for a moment and play “What’s the Scenario?” Say he did win a crowded GOP primary. Not so certain he’d win against a fierce Obama GOTV and fundraising effort – his only hope is if gas prices go to, like, $6 or some wild number, food prices are outrageous and the unemployment rate is just stuck. Then he’d have a chance, maybe…because, at least, he’s much more affable than McCain was in 2008. Otherwise, Huckabee does not stir that kind of passion from either his base of support or the general electorate – other than he’s just a really nice dude.