Jewish World Review May 138, 2011 14 Iyar, 5771
Huckabee and Trump Will Skip the Bloodbath
By Roger Simon
Everyone is circling and waiting to take a bite out of their hides: the media, the bloggers, the tea party, the religious right, the oppo researchers, the think tanks. The list goes on. So perhaps it should not be a surprise when potential candidates opt out of the bloodlust.
Mike Huckabee, who had a chance for the Republican nomination, pulled out Saturday night. And Donald Trump, who had no chance, but who would have been good for a few laughs, pulled out Monday.
Huckabee said that he and his wife knew that if he ran this time they would be subject to "brutal, savage attacks."
But instead of the presidency, Huckabee declared, he has found "an inexplicable inner peace, a peace that exceeds human understanding."
For some reason, this reminded me of Bill Murray in "Caddyshack" saying he had caddied for the Dalai Lama, who stiffed him for a tip after 18 holes. "'Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness,'" the Dalai Lama tells Murray, who decides, "So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."
I don't know why Huckabee's inner peace should be inexplicable, which is to say beyond explanation. It seems pretty easy to explain to me. He is only 55 and can still run in 2016, when the presidency will be an open seat. In the meantime, Huckabee has a chance to take over the Fox News Channel show being vacated by Glenn Beck, which means Huckabee can maintain a high profile and grow rich in the bargain.
For Donald Trump, the decision was even more straightforward. He wanted to run, his family wanted him to run, but his hair said no. Sorry. Couldn't resist. In reality, Trump decided being the developer of incredibly vulgar buildings was more appealing than leading the free world.
"I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly," Trump said. "Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion, and I am not ready to leave the private sector."
Some think running in the primaries carries a huge upside: Everybody gets to know you better. But running in the primaries also carries a huge downside: Everybody gets to know you better.
You think Rudy Giuliani is a happier man today because he ran in the primaries of 2008? He was the only Republican who entered the primaries and didn't get a single delegate at the nominating convention. Heck, Duncan Hunter got one. Alan Keyes got two. And Fred Thompson got 11, even though he rarely left his hotel room.
But Huckabee is out, even though he came in second in the 2008 delegate count. And while I do not doubt him when he says his reasons are primarily spiritual, I do doubt the political analysts who say he would have done better this time than last.
The Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of 2008. It has gotten a lot more strident, a lot more shrill and a lot more just plain vicious. I interviewed Huckabee in Iowa just before he came in an unexpected second in the Ames Straw Poll in the summer of 2007. This led to his victory in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, which unfortunately for him turned out to be the emotional and political high point of his campaign.
"I'm a conservative, but I'm not mad at anybody," he told me in a mantra that came to symbolize his campaign. Iowans liked that. Republicans in Iowa tend to be more conservative than Republicans in other states, but they are still Iowans. For the most part, they are not haters. And they liked Huckabee's low-key, down-home charm.
"I can't buy you, I don't have the money, I can't even rent you," Huckabee told the crowd at Ames. "The straw poll is not about electing a straw man, but giving the people of Iowa a chance to prove they are mature voters and savvy. They are buying the cereal, not just the box."
But Huckabee wasn't some naif with hayseed in his hair and the dew still wet behind his ears. He was an experienced politician. And contrary to some recent rewriting of history, Huckabee did have a staff, he did have advisors, and they did a good job. Huckabee also knew, on occasion, how to shiv the other guy.
Just after Mitt Romney made a nationally televised speech asking people not to discriminate against him because of his religion, Huckabee asked in a New York Times magazine article, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
For the record, a spokesman for the Mormon Church said that Mormons do not believe this. And Huckabee did apologize. It seemed unlike him. But that is what campaigns do to you.
In 2008, the Republicans were just playing Whack-A-Mole with each other, however. In 2012, they will be using tactical nukes. The media will have no Democratic race to divide their attention, and every sharp elbow, every punch to the chin and hook to the ribs will be covered, echoed and magnified.
"The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning," Adlai E. Stevenson once said.
It's tough to do. Sometimes too tough.
Which may be the real reason why Mike Huckabee is going to sit this one out.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate