Mike Huckabee, who despite not declaring himself a candidate for President, is at the forefront of most political polls. Yet the former Arkansas governor expressed today that President Obama will be tough to beat.
His analysis may be quite correct. Having shifted to center shortly after his election, he may gain popularity in the nearly two years between now and Election Day 2012. Undecided Americans may rebel against Tea Party extremists, tying their erratic and often abhorrent behavior to Republicans and swing their vote to the known entity, the incumbent President.
Those who proclaim that President Obama is a one-term wonder are perhaps ignoring the power of his incumbency, and his ability to get press coverage on anything he does, the equivalent of free political advertising. More, they may be underestimating the political will of the people, who may simply be tired of political wrangling by 2012. As one political analyst at the Institute said “Barack Obama IS the President, and they want to be. There’s a BIG difference.”
The next two weeks should be particularly sensitive ones, in which Congress will have only three days to reach a budget settlement that will be difficult at best to reach. Again, Tea Party members of the House, all inexperienced in budget matters, may use the opportunity to disrupt Congress and block any compromise Republican and Democratic leaders may arrive at, resulting in a shut down of the government.
The last time this happened, it had disastrous effects on Republicans. Using the power of his office, it’s very easy for President Obama to blame the disruptive wing of the Republican Party and gain popular sympathy with voters. As many an actor will tell you “always play for sympathy” if you want the audience to support you.
Huckabee, if he did announce, would have a very crowded playing field among fellow Republicans. It’s likely to be a very contentious fight within the GOP as well, with Tea Party candidates such as Sarah Palin and extreme Conservatives like Ron Paul in the mix. Each extremist may have their own supporters who may not feel inclined to swing their votes to the the broader GOP when it comes time for the November election.
Palin, and possible candidate or running mate Michele Bachmann as favorites of the Tea Party, may split Republican voters, particularly if Palin were to seek ballot inclusion as an independent candidate. Remembering Ross Perot’s effect on George H. W. Bush in 1992, we can presume that Republicans can be split up, and if President Obama faces minimal opposition within his own party, his stability will shine through with millions of independent voters.
While Huckabee remains uncommitted to running, he hasn’t ruled it out formally, and one is reminded that his predecessor in the governor’s chair, Bill Clinton, didn’t declare his candidacy until 3 months before the first caucuses.
Only time will tell.