It is looking increasingly likely that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, 59, will make a presidential run in 2016, according to The Washington Post. Though he is presently a Fox News host, Huckabee is hiring staff for his new advocacy group, holding meetings with prospective donors, and conducting trips with religious leaders as well as scheduling strategy sessions for a possible candidacy.
With actions speaking louder than words, America Takes Action, Huckabee’s advocacy group, recently hired staff familiar with political campaigns. Huckabee will leave this week for a 10-day overseas trip with more than 100 pastors and GOP colleagues. The trip is devoted to honoring three conservative icons who fought communism and is called the “Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II tour.”
Later this month Huckabee has meetings scheduled with financiers in Las Vegas, New York, and California. In December, Huckabee will host two strategy sessions, one in Little Rock and one in Destin, Florida.
In January, his new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, will be released. Huckabee told the Northwest Florida Daily News: “It’s really just a catchy way of saying the part of America where the ownership of the gun is not frightening. People do understand what grits are and you can actually order them in a restaurant and God is not something that people in polite company wouldn’t talk about.”
Huckabee’s numbers in the polls remain high, challenging Jeb Bush and Rand Paul.
Huckabee’s daughter Sarah, who is in his inner circle, told The Washington Post that his “heart is into it. He is personally engaged and more aggressive in taking on meetings. He can’t wait to get back to South Carolina and Iowa.”
Huckabee is aware of a possible conflict with his job at Fox; he said, “I have to be very careful about this.” He added that he has “obligations in broadcasting … I am not doing anything official at this point.” Bill Shine, Fox News vice president for programming, when made aware of the Post article, said that Fox is “taking a serious look at Governor Huckabee’s recent activity in the political arena.”
Some GOP insiders said Huckabee began considering a run in July 2013, when he spoke with Chip Saltsman, the manager of his 2008 campaign. Saltsman asked Huckabee if he wanted to run in 2016; Huckabee was noncommittal. Saltsman urged him to move quickly if he was interested and to contact him if he decided to run. Shortly thereafter, Huckabee called, saying, “Let’s go.”
Last March, Huckabee met roughly 70 House GOP members at Republican National Committee headquarters in a meeting whose subject remained private.
Huckabee’s family wants him to run, and they have cause; Huckabee himself was surprised by polling indicating he is hugely popular in Iowa and South Carolina. One survey conducted by his own team showed him leading other prospective GOP candidates by more than ten percentage points. He commented, “There were polls done that surprised me and got my attention — and led my friends to urge me to think of this again.”
An exit poll in Iowa showed Huckabee receiving more favorable responses than any other potential GOP candidate, with 19% of voters asserting he would be their choice in 2016.