At the start of the presidential campaign, it seemed Mike Huckabee would be a favorite for the GOP presidential ticket if Mitt Romney won the nomination.
But the former Arkansas governor seems to have slipped from the national consciousness in the last several months – so much so that he’s rarely mentioned as a potential running mate for Romney, or even mentioned, period.
After all, this is a guy who, despite tangling with Romney during the 2008 race, has since then made a point to get very friendly with the former Massachusetts governor, almost to the point where it seemed that he was angling for role in a Romney administration.
Huckabee also has nearly unmatched appeal to social conservatives and evangelicals – which are two groups Romney struggled with during the GOP primary — and the amiable Fox News host even polls pretty well among more moderate voters.
But besides a National Review piece pumping up Huckabee last month and leaders in the the religious conservative community, few are talking up Huckabee to be on Romney’s ticket.
Here, we explore a few reasons why:
Some, though, insist that Huckabee should still be a part of the dialogue.
“Very often, not being on the short list is a great position to be in,” said GOP pollster Ed Goeas. “He meets the two dictates of being a vice president: One is do no harm, and the other is he is qualified to be president if he needs to be.”
Hogan Gidley, a former aide to Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign and longtime Huckabee staffer, said the former Arkansas governor would fit perfectly on the ticket.
“Everywhere Huckabee is strong, Mitt Romney’s weak; everywhere Huckabee’s weak, Mitt Romney’s strong,” said Gidley, a spokesman for Huckabee’s political action committee.
Gidley added that while many assume Huckabee is happy with his Fox show and radio program, a higher calling could indeed present itself.
“Because he’s a Christian, he understands the Lord may call him to run, but he also knows it may not be the Lord’s will for him to run,” Gidley said. “If he feels the call of the Lord, he’s gonna answer it and the consequences be damned.”
Still, other Republicans point to polling that suggests social conservatives and evangelicals have closed ranks around Romney, which may mitigate whatever value Huckabee would have on the ticket.
“Conservatives will not abandon or run from Romney,” said one GOP strategist who is skeptical that Huckabee is in the VP mix. “Why? They view him less of a threat than Obama. Evangelicals won’t repeat the mistake they made in 2008.”
In the end, Huckabee’s appeal may not be what it once was and he may not be the kind of complement that Romney needs these days.
But dark horses have found a way to win the recent vice presidential contests.