Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced Saturday night that he would be ending his Fox News talk show to gauge support for a possible presidential campaign.
“There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for President,” Huckabee told his followers on Facebook. “I won’t make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015, but the continued chatter has put Fox News into a position that is not fair to them.”
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“I feel compelled to ascertain if the support exists strongly enough for another Presidential run. So as we say in television, stay tuned!” he added.
Huckabee, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2008 and hosted his show for more than six and a half years, had drawn renewed attention by criticizing former secretary of state Hillary Clinton last month after she said “smart power” also means empathizing and showing respect for enemies.
“How can we empathize with terrorists who think nothing of beheading innocent men, women and children?” Huckabee asked in a blog post on his website last month.
The 2016 race is already well underway online.
Even before Huckabee had made his announcement, Rand Paul’s PAC was firing away on the digital front. Just as the Kentucky Republican’s political arm had done when Jeb Bush signaled last month he was weighing a White House campaign, Paul’s team bought prime real estate for any Google searches using the terms “Huckabee record”, “Huckabee announcement”, “Huckabee taxes” and “Huckabee common core.”
“Less Taxes Not More,” read one ad for RandPAC. “We need leaders who will cut taxes not raise them. Join us.”
RandPAC also targeted users tweeting about Huckabee or his announcement with ads.
Huckabee’s leadership PAC, Huck PAC, took in $2.2 million in the 2014 cycle, spending approximately $2 million, with about $500,000 on hand. Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee, also runs a super PAC called American Principles Fund. In the 2014 cycle, it raised $1.4 million, spent $1.3 million and had $60,000 on hand.
Huckabee came in a distant second to John McCain in the 2008 Republican primaries. The former pastor turned Arkansas governor started strong, winning the Iowa GOP caucus by 9 percentage points over Mitt Romney.
Three-in-five Iowa caucusgoers in 2008 were evangelical or born-again Christians, but, a week later in New Hampshire, fewer than 25 percent of GOP primary voters were evangelicals. Huckabee finished third in the Granite State, with only 11 percent of the vote.
He then captured his home state of Arkansas, along with Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia. Despite these victories, McCain secured the necessary number of delegates by early March with a clean sweep of contests in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont.
Even though Huckabee faded quickly in 2008, his win in the Iowa caucuses left a big mark on the electorate that votes in that contest, which is a more conservative and more evangelical group than even other segments of the GOP primary electorate elsewhere.
But his slow strip toward ultimately saying he wouldn’t run in 2012 has left many skeptical of his intentions for 2016. The former Arkansas governor appears to have profited financially from being in the national spotlight — raking in money from paid speeches, for instance, and making expansive use of chartered planes — and many believe he’s unlikely to leave aside a life of relative comfort for a long-shot campaign.
Sources say Huckabee still has paid speeches scheduled in the coming weeks. Huckabee also has a book coming out later this month, titled “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” and speculation about a presidential run could add to the hype as he promotes the book.
Any number of politicians have been paid contributors to Fox News, but the cable channel’s policy requires it to sever those ties if that person takes certain steps toward running for office. At times, it has ended the agreements even before the would-be candidate makes a final decision on whether to run.
Huckabee wrote on his Facebook page earlier that the announcement Saturday night would “make news for sure.”
It’s not the first time he has made an important decision public on his show, which debuted in September 2008. In May 2011, Huckabee teased a similar announcement ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
“All the factors say go, but my heart says no,” he told viewers.