It ain’t over till it’s over: Part 2
In a move certain to further unsettle an already remarkable political year, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced here today that he is re-entering the race for the White House.
Speaking at the National Press Club this afternoon, Huckabee—whose first foray into presidential politics saw him go from unknown to frontrunner to also-ran in near-record time—declared that the outcome of the Republican nomination battle remained very much in doubt.
“It’s still early,” Huckabee insisted, months after Arizona Sen. John McCain was deemed the presumptive GOP nominee by most observers. “This is a dynamic electoral environment.”
Huckabee, 52, pointed to upcoming Republican primaries in Idaho (May 27) and New Mexico (June 3) as particular breakthrough opportunities and vowed to remain in the contest until a nominee is officially selected. When that time comes, he made clear, he expects to be that nominee.
“Idaho is going to be the turning point. The whole world will be watching Idaho.”
This, despite McCain’s seemingly insurmountable lead in the delegate count.
“The thing they need to consider.” Huckabee argued, referring to the delegates, “is which of us will be the strongest nominee in November. I think the evidence is pretty clear that it’s me.”
He cited polls showing voters’ growing concerns about the fragile state of the economy, concerns likely to last through Election Day. McCain’s reputation, he suggested, has not been built on his skills as an economic manager.
“The delegate numbers are one thing,” Huckabee said, “but I think most people are a lot more worried about the numbers on their paychecks and their grocery bills.”
But those weren’t the only numbers Huckabee mentioned.
“When we started this process, my opponent was 70 years old. Right now, in the middle of these primaries, he’s 71 years old. By the time we meet in September to choose our nominee, he’ll be 72.
“There’s a pattern emerging here.”
Aides to Huckabee denied he was suggesting that McCain was too old to serve as president.
“The facts are what they are,” said a top Huckabee official. “It’s just something people will probably want to consider.”
Spokesmen for the McCain campaign declined to comment on the record about this new pothole in what had seemed a smooth path to the nomination. Sources close the campaign, however, were said to be flabbergasted by Huckabee’s sudden re-emergence as McCain was already well along in his pivot toward the general election.
For his part, Huckabee rejected reporters’ insinuations that he was returning to the campaign to feed his ego, or out of a reluctance to cede the limelight to McCain.
“I’m not in it for me,” he claimed. “I’m in it for all those middle-aged balding guys out there who’ve taken everything life throws at them and who still have a dream.”
He read from several messages he had received from such supporters in recent weeks, including one that said simply, “It’s not over till the guy with the bass guitar stops playing encores.”
“Well,” said a smiling Huckabee, “I’m still playing encores.”
The impact of Huckabee’s return to the political stage remained uncertain in the first hours after his announcement, and both camps anticipated that several days of tracking polls would be necessary to get a better sense of what it might mean for McCain’s prospects—and for Huckabee’s reputation.
Said one GOP strategist, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.