The Unlikely Front-runner: Mike Huckabee Tops Polls


huckabeeMike Huckabee is in a position most politicians would die for.┬áIn the latest Gallup poll released Friday, he’s the Republican leader, ahead of 16 other presidential prospects. Regardless of what’s being polled, who’s doing the polling or how the question is asked, among Republicans Huckabee typically finishes on top.

Who is the most liked? Mike Huckabee.

Who do Fox News viewers favor? Mike Huckabee.

Who does the South want to be president? Mike Huckabee.

Poll the early primary states and the former Arkansas governor is winning. Match up any of the 2012 contenders with President Barack Obama and Huckabee usually runs the strongest.

For a potential candidate who doesn’t do a whole lot of actual campaigning – and who most insiders don’t believe will run for the White House – Huckabee occupies a surprisingly dominant position.

“Huckabee’s the only one of the top Republicans who has the combination of electability and base appeal it’s going to take to beat Barack Obama,” wrote Tom Jensen of the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling in January. “A lot will change over the course of 2011 but at least based on the information we have so far Huckabee looks like the GOP’s best bet.”

There’s no single reason that explains why Huckabee polls so well, so consistently.

He’s run for president before, but so has former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who doesn’t perform nearly as well in the polls. Some point to Huckabee’s non-threatening persona and sunny demeanor. Others see his placement in a unique position at the intersection of conservative politics, media and faith-a former preacher, Huckabee now hosts his own show on Fox-as the key to his polling success.

“His Fox News show really helps his name recognition,” suggested Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “He’s a very genial person. He doesn’t seem to have a mean streak at all.”

Clearly his upstart 2008 bid, a campaign in which he showed surprising staying power, unfolded in such a way that it left him in better shape than when he began.

“Huckabee does better because his 2008 run gave him decent name recognition and favorable ratings without the perceived negatives that appear to be limiting the appeal of the other better known prospective GOP hopefuls,” said Mark Blumenthal, the editor of

Still, despite the polling data-and despite the fact that Huckabee has topped nearly every survey conducted on the 2012 field since Barack Obama’s election-party insiders don’t view the former governor as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

The knock is that Huckabee hasn’t shown any capacity to raise money at the level demanded by a presidential campaign, and that there is no path to victory for a self-branded social issues warrior as long as the economy remains entrenched as the dominant political issue.

“The skepticism in D.C. grows out of the fact that Governor Huckabee did very well with social conservatives, but not economic conservatives,” said Ayres. “And since economics dominate today they are skeptical that he will be able to resonate.”

Many-including the media-started shorting Huckabee’s 2012 stock after the news broke that as governor he’d granted clemency to a man who in 2009 shot four cops in Washington state. Huckabee took a beating from conservatives following the shooting, and still finds himself having to explain the decision. More recently, Huckabee ran into turbulence for statements ranging from a remark that the late Ted Kennedy would have been told to “go home to take pain pills and die” under the new health care law to claiming that Obama grew up “in Kenya”-the kind of wildly undisciplined rhetoric that serious presidential contenders tend to avoid.

The polls, however, suggest the public is more forgiving: Huckabee’s numbers only briefly dipped after the Washington shooting, and none of the other incidents appear to have damaged him at all. His negative ratings are remarkably low for a politician who has been in the national spotlight for an extended period of time-even among Democratic voters and independents.

Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said that “the reason why he polls better than he does with Beltway pundits is that they see problems with him based on their knowledge of Huckabee.”

“They project how that will play down the road with the Republican electorate,” he said. “If we walked through a suburban shopping mall in Des Moines, I bet relatively few of the people we’d talk to are aware of Romney’s ties to health care in Massachusetts. Nor are they likely aware of Huckabee’s economics.”

Huckabee clearly loves his perch atop the polls.

The former Arkansas governor frequently points to his numbers to rebut interviewer who question how serious he is about running for president, as do his aides.

“Most polls reflect the voices of everyday hardworking people – while most news stories reflect the voices of the D.C. elite media, high paid political consultants and political pundits,” said Hogan Gidley, HuckPAC’s executive director. “Should Governor Huckabee decide to run for President in 2012, he will be the frontrunner – regardless of what the D.C. press or political pundits think about it.”

{Capitol News Company, LLC/}


  1. I liked Huckabee last time. The media ignored him and he still had a strong showing in states like Texas. He tried to get McCain to debate him, no go. With no media he still got over 700,000 votes.

  2. Mike is pro life & pro sanctity of Marriage – keeping “Marriage” between one man and one women. He is also a staunch supporter of Israel. I voted for him last time & I will be voting for him again next year. It’s high time the Hamodia, Yated, Agudah, etc… get behind Mike!