Weekend open thread: Huckabee passes on 2012

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.”

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  • Electoral College

    So the goal of this end-around is to avoid a repeat of 2000?

    How about a repeat of Florida in 2000, but not confined to a single state?  Do you really want to get into a situation where we have a nationwide recount?  One of the (many) virtues of the Electoral College is that it confines electoral controversies to individual states.  I think that’s a good thing.

    • which is worse?

      A recount in all 50 states about once a century (when the presidential election is extremely close), or the popular vote loser becoming president about once a century? It’s already happened twice, in 1876 as well as 2000.

      I think putting the wrong person in charge of the country for four years is worse than the logistical headache of a nationwide recount in the rare event of an extremely close popular vote result.

  • I may be guessing

    but I bet if Gore had won Florida and the Presidency in 2000, this dissolution of the electoral college wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar, despite the fact that it’s happened several times in American history (24, 76, 88).

    Since that is most likely the case, I chalk a good portion of the popular vote movement up to sore loser syndrome from 2000.  (Not all of it, but some of it).

    It is true that any constitutional amendment would never pass, because any small state around the country would be a fool to vote get rid of the system.

    As for disproportionate attention to swing states?  Look…everyone has a year in a sun under this electoral system.  I can’t think of 1 state that has NEVER been a swing state at one point.  Massachusetts voted for Republican Reagan.  Utah voted for Democrat LBJ.  Vermont voted for Republican Nixon.  South Carolina voted for Democrat JFK.  

    Sure, there are ebbs and flows for states.  But for every 10 California-type states that complain that candidates don’t visit today, there were 10 states complaining a few years ago because swingy California was getting all the attention while the solidly Democratic North Carolina got none at all.

    California will be swing state again someday, much like Utah will…it’s just a matter of time.

    • thanks, I forgot about 1888

      Grover Cleveland won the popular vote, but Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote. 1824 is a bit different, because not all the states had a popular vote, but you are correct in that of the states that did record a popular vote, Andrew Jackson got more votes than John Quincy Adams, who was elected.

    • I think you are right

      That if not for the screwy Palm Beach ballot and the messed-up Duval County ballot instructions (“vote on every page,” which led to thousands of overvotes by people who intended to vote for Gore), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      But if Gore had won the electoral college while losing the popular vote, there would have been a big national debate on the electoral system. I remember reading at the time that Bush’s campaign advisers had planned a post-election strategy in case this scenario played out. Bush was leading almost all the polls in October 2000, but many pundits thought Gore might squeak through with the electoral vote by winning narrowly in states like PA while losing big in places like TX.

      I can’t remember where I read this, but Bush’s strategists were planning a massive media campaign to portray Gore’s victory as illegitimate if he didn’t win the popular vote–the goal was to pressure him to decline to assume the presidency if he didn’t win the popular vote. I’m not saying they would have succeeded, but there certainly would have been a huge uproar, beginning in  about how undemocratic the electoral college is.  

      • Bush's strategy would have failed

        and Gore would have been President.

        As for this coming election, I could potentially see Obama winning the popular vote, but losing the electoral vote 272-266 or something like that.  

        With Republican presidents taking over the White House TWICE in 12 years w/out a popular vote victory…well, I think it could be the death knell of the electoral college.

    • oops

      I think I accidentally deleted your last comment. Would you mind reposting? Thanks.

    • Small States support National Popular Vote

      The small states are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.  The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all method (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

      None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.

      The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states.

      12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes) are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections.  Six regularly vote Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota),, and six regularly vote Democratic (Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC) in presidential elections. Despite the fact that these 12 lowest population states together possess 40 electoral votes, because they are not closely divided battleground states, none of these 12 states get visits, advertising or polling or policy considerations by presidential candidates.

      In the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill already has been approved by nine state legislative chambers, including one house in, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  It has been enacted by the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Vermont.  

      • Every one of these states

        used to be a swing state…and they received visits from candidates during those times.

        So…over the last 12 presidential contests, these 12 states have received probably over 100 visits from presidential and vice presidential candidates, because they are or used to be swing states.

        If the NPV campaign is successful, these 12 states will receive approximately zero visits over the next 12 presidential campaigns.

        Again, these are the simple facts of the matter.  Maybe rural states don’t want presidential candidates visiting.  I certainly see the benefit…it can be a hassle.

        • Really, 2/3rds of voters ever should be content to be irrelevant ?

          I would love to see you document your glib assumption that over the last 12 presidential elections, all have been swing states.

          I find it hard to believe the Founding Fathers would endorse an electoral system where 2/3rds of the states and voters now are completely politically irrelevant. Presidential campaigns spend 98% of their resources in just 15 battleground states, where they aren’t hopelessly behind or safely ahead, and can win just one more than 50% of the vote to win all of the state’s electoral votes.  Now the majority of Americans, in small, medium-small, average, and large states are ignored. Virtually none of the small states receive any attention. Once the primaries are over, presidential candidates don’t visit or spend resources in 2/3rds of the states. Candidates know the Republican is going to win in safe red states, and the Democrat will win in safe blue states. So they are ignored.

          Under a national popular vote, with every vote equal, candidates will truly have to care about the issues and voters in all 50 states.  A vote in any state will be as sought after as a vote in Florida.  Part of the genius of the Founding Fathers was allowing for change as needed. When they wrote the Constitution, they didn’t give us the right to vote, or establish state-by-state winner-take-all, or establish any method, for how states should award electoral votes… Fortunately, the Constitution allowed state legislatures to enact laws allowing people to vote and how to award electoral votes.

          Consider the reliably Republican state of Idaho as an example of a spectator state. Given George W. Bush’s 68% margin of victory of 228,000 in 2004, no amount of campaigning will alter the fact that the Republican nominee for President is virtually certain to win Idaho’s four electoral votes in the politically foreseeable future under the current system. Therefore, the Republican candidate for President has nothing to lose in Idaho by taking Idaho for granted. Similarly, the Democratic candidate has nothing to gain in Idaho and can simply write it off. The result of not being a closely divided battleground state is that issues of concern to Idaho voters are made irrelevant to both parties.

          Under a national popular vote for President, every vote in Idaho would matter to both the Democratic and Republican nominee in every election. A vote in Idaho would become as valuable as a vote anywhere else in the country.

          • Just a critique of the NPV plan...that's all.

            Every plan has its good parts and its bad parts.  Certainly our current plan has disadvantages, but so does the NPV plan.  

            I would love to see you document your glib assumption that over the last 12 presidential elections, all have been swing states.

            I love it when glib assumptions turn out to be factually accurate.  Here’s when these states were battleground states:

            Alaska – 1964

            Idaho – 1964

            Montana – 1996

            Wyoming – 1964

            North Dakota – 2008

            South Dakota – 2008

            Rhode Island – 1988

            Delaware – 1988

            Hawaii – 1992

            Vermont – 1988

            Maine – 1992

            So…over the last 12 presidential contests, these 12 states have received probably over 100 visits from presidential and vice presidential candidates, because they are or used to be swing states.

            Simple research indicates that, yes, all of these states were swing states at some point over the last 50 years.

    • And if Bush had lost in 2004, with a 3 Million popular vote lead?

      Since World War II, a shift of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections.  Near misses are now frequently common.  There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections.  A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 Million votes.

      National Popular Vote assures that every vote is equal and that every voter will matter in every state in every presidential election.   No voters anywhere should have to contentedly wait to possibly become relevant to candidates and equal to other american voters, before they die.

      • What kind of attention would you like?

        Under the NPV, if I live in Wyoming, and President Obama comes to visit Cheyenne on a Saturday…what good does this attention do?

        There may be a small economic boom in Cheyenne that weekend, which may be the trade off for the hassle of a ridiculous amount of security.

        Is President Obama really going to start paying attention to the needs of Wyoming more?  Probably not.  Am I going here a lot of pandering?  Yep.  Am I going to see Obama wearing a cowboy hat?  Hopefully not.

        It just seems that the benefit of a general election candidate coming to a small non-battleground state is largely psychological in the minds of the voters.  As in, “we matter.”

        However, any person in Wyoming who thinks that they don’t matter should look back to 2000 and ask themselves if President Bush desperately needed their 3 electoral votes.  (Hint…he did)  They mattered.

        Did they really need to see ridiculous amounts of campaign ads and hassle ridden visits to make them feel good about themselves mattering?

        Did Bush really screw over Wyoming specifically as President, since he didn’t care to go visit them during the campaign?

        I don’t want to be contrary here, but it doesn’t quite add up.

  • I'm guessing Huckabee will endorse

    Tim Pawlenty.  

    Romney? No way…they don’t care for each other very much.

    Daniels? Too wonkish…not evangelical.

    I have to believe that Huckabee understands that the rest of the candidates are unelectable in the general election.

  • 75% of Iowa Voters support a national popular vote

    A survey of 800 Iowa voters showed 75% overall support for a national popular vote for President. The question was “How do you think we should elect the President when we vote in the November general election: should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current electoral college system?

    By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote for President was 82% among Democrats, 63% among Republicans, and 77% among others.

    By age, support was 76% among 18-29 year olds, 65% among 30-45 year olds, 76% among 46-65 year olds, and 80% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 82% among women and 67% among men.


  • the National Popular Vote bill

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).  

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps.  Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives already agree that, at most, only 14 states and their voters will matter under the current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states.  Candidates will not care about at least 72% of the voters– voters in 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX.  2012 campaigning would be even more obscenely exclusive than 2008 and 2004. In 2008, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states.  Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.  

    Since World War II, a shift of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections.  Near misses are now frequently common.  There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 Million votes.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states that have a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). Then, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).  Support is strong among Republican voters, Democratic voters, and independent voters, as well as every demographic group surveyed in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%,, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, RI, VT, and WA. The bill has been enacted by DC (3), HI (4), IL (19), NJ (14), MD (11), MA (10), VT (3), and WA (13). These 8 jurisdictions possess 77 electoral votes — 29% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


    • Great

      In 2008, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states.

      Ahh…just what we need.  We want them advertising in all 50 states, all the time, during the entire process.  That’s what people are clamoring for…more advertising.

      Ahh…also just what we need.  The candidate with the most money winning every single time.

      As for those states are aren’t swingy right now…they used to be swingy, and they will be swingy once again someday.  From what I said earlier:

      Look…everyone has a year in a sun under this electoral system.  I can’t think of 1 state that has NEVER been a swing state at one point.