The Washington Post

This chart shows why Mike Huckabee should be taken seriously as a 2016 threat

When you think of the 2016 Republican campaign for president, who do you think of? Chris Christie? Jeb Bush? Rand Paul?

How about Mike Huckabee?

A new chart from Gallup shows why Huckabee -- often regarded as a potential candidate but not among the top tier -- should be taken seriously as a prospective 2016 contender. He has a higher net favorability rating (that is positive views minus negative views) tham any of the other potential Republican candidates Gallup tested. And he's better known -- recall that Huckabee ran for president in 2008 and had some early success before fizzling out -- than many bigger name candidates getting more attention right now.

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In the chart above, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) is clearly in the best position -- she's almost universally known and very well-liked. Huckabee, though, leads everyone else -- Democrat and Republican -- in net favorability (+12). And more than half the country is already familiar with him. (Side note: Name recognition is vital in politics. Candidates spend millions of dollars simply raising their name ID. Because if voters don't know you, they aren't going to vote for you.)

Sure, there are better known Republicans. Christie and Bush are two. But as the chart shows, their net favorability is much lower.

Potential candidates mentioned more often than Huckabee, such as Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have lower favorability and lower name recognition.

So does this mean Huckabee should be considered the favorite for the GOP nomination in 2016? No. As we saw in 2008, he's prone to fizzling out. Plus, he'd have a hard time keeping up in the money chase against candidates like Christie and Walker, who are financial juggernauts. His positive numbers may also be the result of his visibility from his Fox News show. Finally, keep in mind that Gallup's polling is of all adults, not the more limited universe of Republican primary voters.

But the point is, counting Huckabee out at this point would be a mistake.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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