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From Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin, the Republicans Offer Indecision 2012

3 years ago
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Like prominent Republicans from, well, Mississippi (Gov. Haley Barbour) to Alaska (c'mon, you can do it), Mike Huckabee admits that he mulls every day whether he should enter the wide-open GOP presidential contest.

But unlike other Republican White House dreamers -- with the conspicuous exception of the indefatigable Mitt Romney -- Huckabee knows the adrenaline rush and the arduous pressures of a presidential race from his quest for the 2008 GOP nomination. "If you've jumped out of an airplane," Huckabee told Washington political reporters Wednesday afternoon, "you have a whole lot better understanding of what you're going to do the next time you do it because you've done it."

Not since New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (aka "Hamlet on the Hudson") bowed out of the 1992 Democratic presidential race with a plane waiting on the tarmac to fly him to New Hampshire has a political party been so afflicted with "to be or not to be" indecision. In a rare burst of clarity, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, after "lots of prayer," announced Tuesday that he would remain on Capitol Hill. But whether it is deciphering Sarah Palin's intentions or guessing what is going on with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, political reporting on the potential Republican 2012 field has morphed into a branch of soothsaying.

At the Wednesday afternoon coffee organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Huckabee conveyed the impression (at least to me) that he is poised to enter the GOP fray if the politics allow him to delay until summer. "The idea that somebody would crank up a campaign as early as possible -- having been through it -- doesn't make sense," the former Arkansas governor said. With his weekend show on Fox News, his paid speeches, his new book ("A Simple Government") and, yes, hosting an early June cruise to Alaska, Huckabee, who hails from the populist wing of the Republican Party, admits, "In the last few years, I certainly have done better than I ever have in my life."

Huckabee stressed that, after cashing in his life insurance and annuities to seek the presidency in 2008, "One thing I committed to myself, my wife and God was that, if I do this, I am going to be in a position where I'm not totally destitute at the end of it." But Huckabee, who clearly is devouring poll numbers even more intensely than he checks the bestseller lists, appears to believe that he has enough name recognition and enough support to mount a credible late entry.

"I'm in a very different position that I was four years ago," he said. "Obviously, I'm better known. I'm polling at the top of virtually every national poll. . . . It doesn't mean that I can wait indefinitely. It certainly means that I would be smart . . . to wait for the field to develop."

The decision to run for president -- the ultimate triumph of narcissism and ambition over rational behavior -- is one of the least understood aspects of presidential politics. Few would-be presidents are as blunt as Jimmy Carter was in his campaign autobiography, "Why Not the Best?" Recalling how he was courted by White House contenders in both parties when he was governor of Georgia, Carter wrote, "I lost my feeling of awe about presidents." A 1970s Democrat, who fell far short on his way to the White House, argued that the mental trick was believing that you were more qualified than your rivals for the nomination -- and not that you were superior to 250 million Americans.

Many candidates have run for president before they were politically ready, whether it was Bob Dole in 1980, Al Gore and Joe Biden in 1988 (actually, he dropped out in 1987) and, yes, Barack Obama in 2008. "For up-and-comers, there is really nothing to be lost in running," said Elaine Kamarck, a former adviser to Al Gore who now teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School. "Bill Clinton -- and I was privy to conversations about this -- never expected to win the nomination in 1992. He thought Mario Cuomo would be the nominee who would lose to George H.W. Bush in November. By running, Clinton was positioning himself for 1996." Former Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is 50, fits this up-and-coming probable candidate profile. Little known nationally, but respected by political insiders, Pawlenty should also be thinking about 2016 as he gets ready for the ordeal of visiting all 99 counties of Iowa.

Presidential candidates not only have to believe in their almost super-human abilities and their potential to bend the national destiny in their bare hands, but they also have to see political openings where often, in reality, none exist. Larry Rasky, who advised Biden on both his 1987 and his under-funded 2008 presidential campaign, said shrewdly, "Some of these people who run know that they will have the money. Some of these people think they will have the money. And some of these people convince themselves that they will somehow have the money."

Not all presidential candidates face a wrenching decision. "Once Ronald Reagan got into politics, it seemed like the only natural end of his career was the presidency," said Republican strategist Rich Galen, who worked for Fred Thompson's failed 2008 campaign. "More recently, 'W' was like Reagan. Once he got bit by the running-for-office bug, there was no stopping him." Sitting vice presidents (unless they are counted out for health reasons like Dick Cheney) automatically run for president at the end of eight years as George H.W. Bush did in 1988 and Al Gore in 2000.

For my book on the 2004 Democratic race, "One-Car Caravan," I interviewed all the presidential contenders about their decisions to throw their hats into the ring (or a yarmulke in Joe Lieberman's case). There was something naively touching about former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who dropped out before the Iowa caucuses, telling his wife, Adele, as they drove by the White House, "Maybe we'll be in that house over there in a couple of years." And Howard Dean -- long before he became the tribune of the anti-Iraq protest vote -- decided to run for president because the alternative was serving on corporate boards "and swearing at The New York Times every morning and saying how outrageous it was."

It has been nearly 60 years since both Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson were drafted for the 1952 presidential nominations. These days, even fake drafts (like the one that Donald Trump apparently is trying to gin up) strain credulity. In truth, the only way to run for president is to nominate yourself as a candidate. That is why the first primary takes place in the minds and hearts of the men and women who fantasize about being the 2012 Republican nominee.

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260 Comments

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KathyandTim

the Republicans and the tea party will die ofF in 2012 after what they are doing to the unions and STILL no taxes for the rich . I laugh every time I WATCH THEM DEGRADE TEACHERS FIREMEN AND POLICEMEN AS NON ESSENTIAL. Lets see if i am right .THE SAD THING IS THOSE WHO VOTED THEM IN DIDNT HEAR WHAT THEY were really saying. They promised to go after education , pbs and health care without reguard. LIsten up before you vote next time .

March 02 2011 at 3:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dlee4144

The Democrats can produce a highly effective campaign ad that will get Obama reelected. All they have to do is list his potential opponents.

March 02 2011 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pat

As the country gets to watch the antics of the Republicans in Congress and the business cycle continues its upward climb this wishy-washy bunch may all decide that opposing President Obama is an exercise in futility. Wouldn't it be hilarious if the Republicans didn't even field a candidate and President Obama ran unopposed in 2012? I am actually quite hopeful of seeing control of the Congress returned to the hands of Democrats in 2012 because I think voters will have had quite enough of the Republican approach - cut taxes for business and the wealthy and cut support for the rest of the population - by then.

March 01 2011 at 5:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rgintz

Reality check--I think we have had plenty of examples of willingness on the part of both Democrats and Republicans to spend incredible sums of money. Bush's military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us in excess of $1 trillion to date and add hundreds of billions annually to the deficit blamed on Obama. Bush pushed through the Medicare Drug Bill (much to the delight of the drug companies) that was expected to add $800 billion to the Federal budget over ten years. Bush's administration oversaw and achieved passage of the $700 billion TARP bailout. Obama has subsequently added over $1 trillion in "stimulus" funding and achieved passage of the sweeping health care initiative, which is projected to cost $1.6 trillion over ten years. So thinking that the next president, be he/she Democrat or Republican, will lead to a reduction or elimination of the Federal deficit, is goofy. "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" We all cheered last December when Obama compromised with the Republicans and extended the tax cuts for everyone two more years. Yes, there were cries to tax the rich more, but there were also cries to tax the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax at all. Attempts to trim social services spending are met with complaints that it is not fair to withhold support for the most vulnerable in society. Attempts to cut military spending by closing some military bases around the country are attacked by Representatives and Senators of states whose bases are targeted. Attempts to cut Social Security payments bring howls and arguments that seniors have paid for those benefits. Consider this...I was highly compensated for thirty years, retiring in 2006. I paid social security tax on the maximum amount required each year. I contributed $108,871 and my employer contributed $109,579. Total = $218,450.My monthly payment at age 66 is $2,304. It will take me 95 months (8 years) to receive that $218,450. If I live beyond age 74, I will be receiving money contributed by others. Social Security began as a supplement to a retiree's income. It was never intended to be the sole income. Today, if a man dies at 35 years old, his wife and children receive money from Social Security. Say a man is married for ten years and divorces and remains married to wives #2 and #3 for a minimun ten years each. At his death, all three women are entitled to receive the monthly social security payment he received, if it is greater than the amount they have qualified for themselves. Again, Social Security benefits have been paid in situations not originally anticipated. Our military operates bases in over 130 countries. The bases cover 30 million acres of land we either own or lease. The military machine will resist any cuts to its budget. We have 71,000 troops in Germany and 50,000 troops in Japan. If we simply brought those troops home and lined them up on the US/Mexico border, we would have one soldier every 87 feet. And the 121,000 paychecks would be spent in America supporting our economy rather than in Germany and Japan. The $1.5 trillion Federal deficits expected over the next few years means the govt is subsidizing our standard of living by that amount, be it for transfer payments, military spending, social programs, or educational grants. We all fight desparately to protect the spending that directly affects us. And any candidate for any office who tells us the truth and promises deep spending cuts and tax increases will not get elected. We elect those who promise to more and more. Our nation is bankrupt or soon will be. When foreign govts refuse to buy any more bonds to support our debt, we will wake up to the realization of sacrifice far worse than the Great Depression. Argue all you wish about Republicans and Democrats. Neither is the problem or the solution. WE are the problem and hold the solution.

February 28 2011 at 6:33 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gallagncy

The reason the republicans will not annouce thir canadacy is they know they cant beat Obama

February 27 2011 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gallagncy's comment
mxoverdriv

Or they are so confident of beating Obama they don't believe they need a full two years to campaign!

In reality, it is time to stop running such long election campaigns for every office! Members of the House run for election every two years...they are out campaigning for their next election before they have even been sworn in! Delaying the day Obama gets back out on the adoration trail can only help Republicans and our country as a whole.

March 01 2011 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rolsen9980

What about the so called TEA PARTY....

February 27 2011 at 5:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rolsen9980's comment
STOP LIBERALS

THE TEA PARTY gave Obama a "shellacking" remember?

March 02 2011 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bestintravel

The writer wishes for indecision from Republicans. Keep thinking so.

February 27 2011 at 4:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bestintravel's comment
STOP LIBERALS

The writer is doing in what psychology circles is called "PROTECTING". He wishes and hopes GOP hopefuls are undecided/unwilling to announce. WHY should they announce years early? SO Democrats can start beating up on them like they do Sarah Palin?
As for rclark96, INDEPENDENTS are way of saying "I have no moral compass and can't make a decision."
Barrack IS NOT a good role model for for fathers. If he were, he'd stop his Health care debacle.

March 02 2011 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rclark96

As an Independent, I think we benefit from a legitimate choice of competent leaders. Pres. Obama can be beaten on re-election, but not by the likes of Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin. Mike Huckabee has the temperament, experience and common-sense to be a good leader. His gracious compliments last week about Barack Obama as a good role model for fathers and husbands only made me like Huckabee. PLEASE Repubs, don't nominate Sarah Palin!!

February 26 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to rclark96's comment
mxoverdriv

I like Huckabee, I voted for him in the primary in the last election. But he couldn't beat McCain, so it stands to reason he can't beat Obama. I like Huckabee....but I am hoping Palin runs so I can do everything in my power to get her elected! I honestly believe that if she runs, she will win.

March 01 2011 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dlee4144

Huckabee is a nice guy, but he looks like someone's slightly senile grandfather against Obama. The only problem Obama would have in a debate is trying not to look like he was picking on him. Gingrich has so much baggage-- and some of it's really bad stuff. And I could outdebate Palin-- as could most of the human race.

March 02 2011 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fpfp040408

One may say that indecision is a sign of intelligent contemplation. However, in this case it is acknowledgement that the Reps have no viable candidates , none who could stand up to OBAMA or beat Obama . OBAMA 2012

February 25 2011 at 10:38 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fpfp040408's comment
STOP LIBERALS

NO viable candidate? THEY are quiet because they don't want to get beat up YEARS before the campaign starts.
Just look at how they beat up on Sarah Palin because they THINK she might run

March 02 2011 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marta0412marta

The fact of running for the Presidents office is not an American dream in our nation, but a night mare that seems to never end for the last two to three decades. We rally to run for this high office, commander in chief, president of our nation here in the United States of America with promisses of fixing every thing that has gone wrong for this nation the last few decades.
Men and women alike now in our " FREE " country filled with greed, self centered needs and reasons for the " power " of this office.
We are infested with our big brother attitude and rage of democracy that we now fail to have and do not understand. But, lets go shove it down the other countries throats. The result being more debt, and wars on wars with everyone and not even solving one problem, BUT costing our families, friends, neighbors and fellow countrymen the lifes of our brothers and sisters, service men and women for the tough, big brother, fix every thing foolish politics, and politicians.
That, the men and womens lifes we spend for this democracy is too high a cost.
I Bobby Lee Marta toss my hat in the ring, because I have common sence, am honest, don't and want promise favors for political funds, will not be a yes man, do not kiss ass, and for sixty nine years have worked with and for people, and will take two steps to meet you half way, IF you will just take one.
Thats my story and maybe the American dream can come true, and if not maybe someone will go back, look at what and how we screwed all this up and ateast try to fix it. Either way, I will be on their cases and will not pull any punches in this fight for the American people. Grow up men and women and take care of the situation now, not in a decade.
Bob Marta
Marta0412marta@aol.com

February 25 2011 at 7:34 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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