When Must Huckabee Decide?

A funny thing is happening on the way to Republican nomination. Mike Huckabee is leading the average of Republican presidential primary polls and is getting the best results against President Obama in head-to-head matchups. However, he hasn’t decided whether he’s running or not.

Much speculation suggests Huckabee’s personal finances will factor in his decision. His work on Fox News and ABC Radio as well as his speaking engagements provide Huckabee a healthy income, with which Huckabee has been able to purchase a beautiful new home in Florida. A presidential run would mean giving up high-paying gigs to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.

However, in an interview with the AFA Focal Point program, Huckabee made clear that finances would not be the determining factor in whether to run or not, pointing out that his first run for office had cost him a comfortable living in a nice house, and the possibility of taking that step again won’t deter him. One big challenge is that Huckabee is enjoying his work on Fox News and doesn’t want to leave for a campaign that won’t be able to win.

Huckabee has raised the concern that Obama could be very difficult to beat, a reasonable concern given America has only once since 1896 given a party control of the White House and then turned them out in the next election. However, with the economy still in trouble and only 23% of the American people saying the country’s on the right track, the possibility of a Republican victory seems far more likely than would be typical.

Whether Huckabee is using a checkbook, scales, or poll numbers to weigh his options, many pundits and activists have taken to warning the former Arkansas governor  that the time to decide is coming very soon. But when must Huckabee decide? The answer may be sooner than Huckabee would like, but perhaps later than pundits demand.

Some of the pressure on Huckabee has nothing to do with the current campaign, but rather how previous campaigns have been conducted. In the last three election cycles, the campaign for the presidency has been super-compressed and front-loaded. Last year, the Iowa caucuses were held on January 3, with most of the delegates being awarded by Super Tuesday in early February. Expectations that Huckabee should have announced his candidacy yesterday are based on the 2008 process.

However, since 2008, the Republican Party has taken steps to correct front-loading and push most primaries back to March or April, with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada voting in February. The 2012 Iowa caucuses are set for February 6, which would be the latest that they  have been held since 1996. Since the Iowa caucuses in 2012 will be held about the same time that Super Tuesday was held in 2008, some adjustment of expectations would be in order.