Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will be coming to Iowa on his book signing tour of his new book, A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need From Washington (And a Trillion That We Don’t). Not only is he coming to Iowa, but he is visiting six cities – Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Davenport, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.
Today we learn he is participating in The FAMiLY Leader’s Presidential Forum. I had originally thought he was going to be one of the first five who committed. He’s in for the June date* (see below) which is originally scheduled for Monday, June 6th, but that is the first full day of the Alaska cruise he is hosting. The timing of which has made some wonder about his 2012 intentions with the Iowa Straw Poll (coupled with a Fox News debate) quickly approaching on August 11.
Perhaps he isn’t running, maybe he is participating in The FAMiLY Leader’s Presidential Forum as a favor to the organization’s president, Bob Vander Plaats, who was his Iowa campaign chair in 2008. Perhaps he’s making six stops on his book tour because he knows he can sell a lot of books in Iowa.
I doubt it. While he certainly isn’t the only prospective candidate with unclear 2012 plans, he is a favorite in Iowa (and nationally) as early polls indicate. Also having won the 2008 Iowa Caucus people expect that he will do well here.
Huckabee has indicated that if he gets in, he’ll get in late. Bob Vander Plaats suggested he could wait to announce until after the Iowa Straw Poll and come in after Labor Day “like Fred Thompson but this time inspired.”
I wouldn’t count on that. To suggest that is foolish, especially considering his week fundraising history and recent anemic fundraising numbers, he needs the publicity that the Straw Poll and debate can provide. Also, Iowans feel slighted by candidates who get in that late. Two things are a must – the Iowa Straw Poll and the Iowa State Fair. Nobody missing those events have EVER done well in Iowa. Huckabee could break that trend, but I wouldn’t count on it. (That would go for any other prospective candidates out there as well.)
He also can not presume that his base of support will be there for him that late. He doesn’t need to announce in February, possibly not even March. He really should make his intentions known by early summer and not skip out on the Straw Poll. A former campaign staffer of his, Wes Enos, suggested earlier this week other candidates (Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain are already making inroads. Sarah Palin if she runs has the ability to pull some of his base away as well) will start to pull his base apart. I agree, and his ability to hire staff in Iowa will be diminished as well. He may have an early lead in the polls, but ask Mitt Romney how reliable those are.
So he’ll be wise to stop flirting pretty soon and commit or he’ll be coming to the dance alone.
*Correction 2/5/11 – Julie Summa of The FAMiLY Leader emailed me and said, “Governor Huckabee has not committed to the June date. Bob simply said we were in conversations with Governor Huckabee regarding his participation in the Presidential Lecture Series possibly for June or July of this year.”