Mike Huckabee announced today that he is entering the race for president. He’s considered by most a second-tier candidate for the Republican nomination. However, Huckabee proved in his last outing that he’s an excellent campaigner/debater and capable of outperforming expectations.
Even so, I can’t help but think that Huckabee missed his best chance for the nomination by not entering the 2012 race. In his absence, Rick Santorum became the favorite of evangelical voters and gave Mitt Romney a good run for his money.
We shouldn’t assume that Huckabee would have pushed Santorum aside and that, running as the preferred candidate of evangelicals, he would have beaten Mitt Romney in, say, Ohio where Santorum fell only 12,000 votes short. But it’s not far-fetched to believe Huckabee would have done so. In this scenario, one can envisage Huckabee winning the nomination.
This time, the obstacles seem more formidable. When it comes to evangelical voters, Huckabee will have to compete not just with Santorum, but also with Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. And if he prevails in this race-within-a-race, he might well find himself matched up with a more formidable candidate than Romney (say, Marco Rubio or the aforementioned Walker; Jeb Bush would be more like Romney, I think).
In sum, Huckabee may, with difficulty, be able to push himself into the first tier, but it’s very difficult to see him capturing the nomination. He will enliven the race, though.