Mike Huckabee, Mitch McConnell and The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy

August 29, 2013

Mike Huckabee has Mitch McConnell's back. He made that clear with an endorsement on Thursday.

"It isn’t easy fighting on the front lines against Barack Obama and his allies in Congress every day but someone has to do it," wrote the former Arkansas governor on his Facebook page. "There is nobody who has done it more effectively, who asks for less recognition for his work, than Mitch McConnell."

The people of the country, nay the world, had only one question when they heard the news of the Huckabee endorsement. And that question was: Where does the endorsement fit on The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy? (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a full explanation of the endorsement hierarchy.)

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Start by asking yourself why Huckabee, a former governor who has spent zero days serving in office in D.C., would weigh in on behalf of the Senate minority leader, who faces a primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin.

To understand Huckabee's thinking requires looking at where his interests lie. And the most important thing to know about Huckabee's endorsement calculus is that he despises the Club For Growth.

The Huckabee-Club spat dates back to to 2006, when the anti-tax group's government affairs director called Huckabee a “liberal” after he signed a minimum wage increase into law in Arkansas. During Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign, the group assailed Huckabee for what its leaders believed to be support of big government and higher taxes.

“I kind of have a standing philosophy: If the Club for Growth hates you, I like you," Huckabee said on his radio program earlier this year.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

So what does it have to do with McConnell? While the Club has not endorsed Bevin, the group has said it is open to the idea and is watching his campaign unfold. And it has been pressing McConnell to support a plan to defund Obamcare.

Huckabee has also endorsed Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), another incumbent that is on the group's radar, though it has not endorsed anyone in that race either. He also backs former South Dakota governor Mike Rounds (R). (The Club is decidedly not a fan of Rounds.) What's more, Huckabee was at odds with the group in several GOP primaries last cycle.

Call Huckabee's endorsement of McConnell some version of the the "What Goes Around Comes Around Endorsement."

Sure, the Club for Growth isn't directly involved in McConnell's race. But given it's track record of spending money to defeat Republican incumbents (See Bennett, Robert, and Lugar, Richard), it could become a factor in Kentucky in 2014. And given Huckabee's track record of going head to head in congressional races against the group he loathes, our read is that it is no coincidence he getting behind McConnell right now.

The Fix Endorsement Hierarchy (ranked in order of influence): 

* The Symbolic Endorsement: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

* The National Endorsement: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty for Romney.

* The In-State Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to Sen. John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary in 2008.

* The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for Huckabee in 2008; Oprah for Obama.

* The Newspaper Endorsement: The Washington Post endorsing state Sen. Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary.

* Out-of-State Statewide Endorsement: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint endorsing former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate primary.

* The What Goes Around Comes Around Endorsement: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani endorsing Rubio.

* The Obligatory Endorsement: George W. Bush endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

* The “Me for Me” Endorsement: Former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) endorsing Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D) 2010 Senate campaign.

* The Non-Endorsement Endorsement: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) passing on an endorsement of Sen. David Vitter’s (R) 2010 reelection bid.

* The Backfire Endorsement: Former Vice President Al Gore endorsing former Vermont governor Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race.

* The Pariah Endorsement: Jailed former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham backing Newt Gingrich.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza · August 29, 2013