| Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced on his Fox show last night that he will not be a candidate for president in 2012. I doubt many people were surprised, because Huckabee had done little to lay the groundwork for a campaign. Shortly after Huckabee visited Iowa on a book tour earlier this year, his 2008 state campaign manager Eric Woolson signed on with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Several other influential Huckabee backers from the last go-around are committed to other candidates as well, including State Senator Kent Sorenson and Wes Enos (now backing Representative Michele Bachmann) and former leaders of the Iowa Family Policy Center (supporting Judge Roy Moore).
It's anyone's guess who will benefit most from Huckabee's absence. Every poll of Iowa Republican caucus-goers I've seen this year has put Huckabee in the lead. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney typically places second in those surveys, but he has signaled that he won't campaign hard in Iowa this year. Judging from how other potential Republican presidential candidates reacted to yesterday's news, Huckabee's endorsement will be highly prized.
This story caught my eye: former Governor Chet Culver is co-chairing the National Popular Vote campaign, which seeks to ensure that the winner of the presidential election is the candidate who receives the most popular votes. Since a U.S. constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college would never be ratified by enough states, the National Popular Vote campaign is seeking to prevent a repeat of the 2000 presidential election.
I was surprised to see Culver on board. When an Iowa Senate committee approved legislation in 2009 to assign Iowa's electors to the winner of the nationwide popular vote (if enough other states approved the same reform), Culver spoke out against the bill. He warned, "If we require our Electoral College votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state." Then Secretary of State Michael Mauro also opposed the bill, saying, "Under this proposal, it is hard to foresee Iowa maintaining its dominant role and expect candidates to spend their final hours campaigning in our state when they will be focused on capturing the popular vote in much larger states." Todd Dorman views the national popular vote campaign as an "end-around" the normal constitutional amendment process, but I support the getting rid of the electoral college by the only practical means available. The president should be the person who receives the most votes.
May is Bike to Work Month, and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition has lots of resources to support recreational or commuter bicyclists. The Urban Country Bicycle blog posted about a study that showed the average worker in this country works 500 hours a year (about two hours per working day) just to pay for their cars.
This is an open thread. What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?
UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Huckabee's Fox News contract played a big part in his decision not to run for president.
Governor Terry Branstad used his weekly press conference on May 16 to urge Republicans candidates to compete in Iowa:
"This is probably going to be the most wide-open, competitive race we've ever had for the Iowa caucuses," Branstad said. "This is a state where a candidate - with hard work and retail politics, going to all 99 counties and meeting with people and answering the questions - this is a state where you can effectively launch a campaign. And it's not too late." [...]
Branstad publicly took issue with [former New Hampshire GOP Chair Fergus] Cullen's editorial, which said, "Iowa Republicans have marginalized themselves to the point where competing in Iowa has become optional."
"Mr. Cullen couldn't be further from the facts," Branstad said. "The truth is that Iowa is a full-spectrum state. I think the primary election that I won last year proves that. I would also point out that the front-runner, Mike Huckabee, made a decision over the weekend, which is momentous. He is not running this time, which means he got the largest block of votes in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and those are up for grabs."
Cullen's editorial is here; I posted excerpts here.
Branstad's close associate Doug Gross, who co-chaired Mitt Romney's 2008 campaign in Iowa, has long warned that the caucuses are not hospitable to moderate candidates. In November 2008, he said, "[W]e've gone so far to the social right in terms of particularly caucus attendees that unless you can meet certain litmus tests, if you will, you have a very difficult time competing in Iowa." But Gross had a very different message today:
I think this is a different year because largely with Huckabee getting out, you'll have multiple social conservatives in the race. As a result of that, they'll divide up a lot of the Caucus vote and there'll be an opportunity for a mainstream Republican to come in and do surprisingly well here. If I were Mitt Romney and I wanted to be the nominee for president, I'd play in Iowa this time because if you win in Iowa this time you have a chance to win the nomination."
Talk radio conservative Steve Deace shared his perspective as an enthusiastic Huck supporter in 2008 who has grown disillusioned more recently: "Ideologically, the Huckabee of today sounds a lot more like the Rod Roberts of 2010 than the [Bob] Vander Plaats of 2010."