by Rod D. Martin
March 5, 2008
He ran a great race for President, one that only a handful of people (like me) imagined that such an underfunded, unknown former preacher could run.
But now it’s over. So what’s a newly famous term-limited ex-governor to do?
Well, he could certainly wait around to be picked for Vice President. But given the mercurial nature of that selection process, he could be in for a very long wait if he did.
But there is something he could do — for himself, his party, and his country — that would be worthy of all that support he just gained. And that’s run for the U.S. Senate.
The math is simple, in both directions. Looking at Arkansas, Huckabee could easily end the one-term career of more-liberal-than-he-claims-to-be Senator Mark Pryor, originally elected largely because of his daddy’s name. Indeed, the last time Huckabee was on the ballot for Senate (in 1996, just before Jim Guy Tucker went to the pen and catapulted him into the governor’s mansion), he was up twenty points over a popular Democrat nominee.
Which brings us to the national math. Huckabee would not only put Arkansas’ Senate race in play, he’d probably win, and that changes everything. Republicans, defending twice as many seats this time as their opponents, are expecting to have a nasty year, regardless of John McCain’s chances; yet in fact, what was looking to be a seven-or-eight seat loss (giving the Ds almost enough seats to block filibusters) is now looking like something more in the range of three, possibly even one. If we’re lucky.
But Arkansas doesn’t even have a Republican Senate candidate at all. Adding him to the mix could make that (admittedly highly optimistic) one-seat loss into a wash. And what if McCain pulled out a win, pushing votes in the direction of all the down-ticket races? Then that wash might become a one-seat gain, a 50-50 Senate, with ties broken by the new Republican Vice President. Which is to say, Mike Huckabee could give us back the Senate.
But not if he is the Vice President. Only if he isn’t.
A Senator Mike Huckabee would be in perfect position to advance his agenda, firm up some of the parts of his gubernatorial resume that a more-than-2/3 Democrat state legislature tilted left, and spend a lot of time articulating his message on national TV. He might also be in a position to help deliver the next Supreme Court justice, putting some powerful legs to his pro-life promise. And if his White House dream — for one reason or another — never came to pass, he, like many famous men before him, could be a major national figure for decades to come.
Today, at least. His filing deadline is March 10th. So carpe diem, Governor. This is your time.
UPDATE, March 11th: Unfortunately, Governor Huckabee had other plans, meaning that the perfectly winnable (for him, anyway) U.S. Senate seat in Arkansas will go completely uncontested by Republicans, and a crucial chance of changing the ugly national Senate math is lost. Far from us to question the Governor’s decision-making process, but this may be a crime which carries its own punishment: should John McCain win this fall — and at this point at least, Team Huckabee absolutely believes he won’t — there’s not likely to be a 2012 comeback; and without a Senate seat, 2016 could be a very long time indeed to maintain an already-tenuous national presence.
But we shall see.