From late Friday afternoon until Saturday night, the GOP grassroots was abuzz. Folks who had organized, committed dollars, and pledged to volunteer for the undisputed frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination were about to finally find out whether he would run.
No other Republican candidate polled as well as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. For more than a year, President Obama had lost poll after poll to Governor Huckabee, while soundly defeating potential candidates Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and the litany of also-rans.
Questions were raised about Huckabee’s ability to raise money, but in recent days, specific, targeted meetings with some of the largest money-persons and bundlers available had made it clear that a Huckabee candidacy would be well endowed.
Questions were raised about his policy positions in 2008, but ever since, Governor Huckabee has made his case clear on more than 600 radio stations to an audience that used to gain similar insights from Paul Harvey. Then, of course, his ratings bonanza on Fox News was added like ice cream on apple pie. He not only consistently won his timeslot on Saturday evenings but would beat all other weekend news programming on Saturday nights.
Questions were raised about his family’s concerns and the emotional and physical toll a campaign cycle has on relationships. But Governor Huckabee made it clear on Saturday night that his decision was not based on money, name recognition, or family concerns.
Having answered all of the outstanding questions, he explained that it all came down to a decision within — and that he was at peace with what he had decided. He was out. Period.
His absence from the 2012 contest means that the most reliable block of GOP voters — evangelicals — are up for grabs. His absence from the debates leaves the spotlight for someone else, given that he was largely considered the winner of all the 2008 GOP debates. His decision not to run eliminates the only candidate the GOP had who was consistently polling ahead of Obama.
I’ve written at length in my new book about the biggest deficit we face as a nation, and it is not one that is measured in dollars, commerce, or trade — it is one of character. We need a leader who clearly delineates right from wrong and common sense from stupidity, and who speaks directly and plainly to the hearts of the voters.
Huckabee could have been that leader.
With Huckabee out, the GOP is at a distinct disadvantage. The field now includes no one who consistently matches up well against the president, and in some ways you know the Obama camp must be thrilled at the prospect of not having to send the incumbent into a general election debate against the much smarter wit of the governor.
But all is not lost, not even close. Ideas matter. Words mean things. Policies impact lives. And decisions have consequences.
In some ways the race is perfectly aligned for a political outsider to come in and do well. Herman Cain by most accounts won this month’s GOP debate in South Carolina, and perhaps Huckabee’s exit is his gain.
Once the announcement was made, my producer came to my studio and asked, “What do you think?”
My answer was simple, “I think we all need to do our homework, know the issues, know the positions of the candidates, and become advocates for the ideas we believe will solve our biggest problems.”
In short, absolutely nothing has changed, and it’s time to get to work.
Kevin McCullough is the nationally syndicated host of “The Kevin McCullough Show” weekdays (7-9am EST) & “Baldwin/McCullough Radio” Saturdays (9-11pm EST) on 289 stations. His newest best-selling hardcover from Thomas Nelson Publishers, “No He Can’t: How Barack Obama is Dismantling Hope and Change” is in stores now.