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Huckabee and Trump Aren’t Running. So What Does that Mean for the Presidential Race?

Posted by: Cameron Cushman on May 20, 2011 Source: Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship

Two of the most talked about names in presidential politics recently announced that they were not going to seek the White House in 2012.  Mike Huckabee, the former Governor of Arkansas, broke the news on his Fox News show on Saturday night.  He stated that “all factors say go, by my heart says no.”

Likewise, real estate developer, casino magnate and television star Donald Trump announced on Monday that he wouldn’t run either – ending several months of speculation.

The Donald had certainly become a lightning rod of criticism and for a while it seemed like he was doing everything he could to get noticed in order to start building a name for himself as a serious contender. Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus in 2008 and had been leading in several early polls. To some degree, both of these men had a shot at the White House.

So why did they decide not to run?  Here are five possible explanations:

1)    Defeating the incumbent President is difficult – President Obama has been in office for almost two and a half years now and is easily one of the most recognized people in America. Plus, he’s also moving up in the polls and recent economic indicators show that the economy is coming back, even if rather slowly. Since the President has officially announced his reelection, campaign dollars have begin flooding in and much of the same team that helped him win in 2008 is still intact. Facing a charismatic opponent who could raise $1 billion for his reelection campaign is a pretty scary prospect. I wouldn’t want to face him either.

2)    The Republican field is pretty crowded already – The first Republican debate featured five candidates, but there are several more potential candidates that haven’t quite made their intentions known (Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, and yes, Sarah Palin). It’s hard to distinguish yourself, particularly in the beginning, when there are so many other candidates in the race. Granted, many of these are weak candidates that won’t even last until the primaries begin, but they still have a crowding out effect that can hurt the big names.

3)    I can’t clean up this mess either – Our country is currently fighting in three conflicts, our national debt is reaching astronomical proportions and our unemployment rate is still almost double what it was for much of the last decade. So who would want to step into this mess and try to fix it? Though many of us asked ourselves this same question in 2008, it doesn’t seem that the climate has really changed that much since Americans last went to the polls. I certainly wouldn’t want to tackle such difficult situations, so I can’t blame either of them for not wanting to run.

4)    A better chance in 2016? Perhaps Huckabee and Trump think that the odds might be more in their favor during the next election cycle. Letting the other guys fight it out for a few years while they sit back and watch might not be a bad thing. That way you don’t have to face a popular President and don’t have to risk having your name drug through the mud for at least a few more years. This is what Hillary Clinton did in 2004 when she decided not to run against George W. Bush. Though she didn’t ultimately win the nomination, she was the frontrunner from the day after Bush’s second inaugural.

5)    Hosting your own TV show is a pretty cushy job – Let’s face it, Huckabee and Trump are on television about an hour and week and both get paid lavish sums for their talent. Plus, they get to travel around the country, get paid to give speeches and can still say whatever they want in public – not a bad gig.  Being the leader of the free world is just a little more stressful.

One thing these announcements didn’t tell us is who will emerge as the Republican nominee. It’s just too early to tell how the lack of a candidate named Huckabee or Trump would have affected this race.

I guess we’ll never know.

Category:  Capitol Hill  Digesting DC 

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