Huckabee Leads Republican Prospects
WASHINGTON - Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dismisses talk of a Republican front-runner for the 2012 presidential race as meaningless. "It's like speculating who's going to be the best actor next year when we don't even know what the movies are," he says.
Not that he's sorry it seems to be him, at least at the moment.
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Saturday and Sunday puts the preacher-turned-politician, host of a weekend talk show on Fox News Channel, at the top of a list of prospective GOP contenders. The results are based on answers from all respondents and a subset of Republicans. None of the GOP prospects has announced he or she will join the race, but all are making the sort of appearances and speeches that would keep the option open.
Huckabee cheers GOP victories Tuesday in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia but says Republicans have only themselves to blame for losing the contest in New York's 23rd Congressional District - an area represented in Congress by Republicans for more than a century. After intraparty warfare pushed the GOP nominee from the race, the Democrat won.
"The Republicans fumbled the ball, and the Democrats jumped on it in the end zone," he says.
The GOP prospects for 2012 are producing a spate of books these days - in Huckabee's case, A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit, published Tuesday. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's memoir of her experiences as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Going Rogue, will be unveiled in two weeks.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is scheduled to bring out No Apology: The Case for American Greatness next March. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is hawking To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom, a book he co-authored that was published last month.
The group may have drawn a lesson from President Obama about the political value of being a successful author: His best-selling The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father helped launch his long-shot campaign. A well-received book can bolster a candidate's credibility, something the Republican field could use.
In poll responses on whether the prospects are "qualified to be president," only Huckabee reaches the 50% watermark; Romney is just behind, at 49%. Palin is seen as unqualified by a 2-1 ratio, 62%-31% - including a negative rating by a third of Republicans, two-thirds of independents and eight in 10 Democrats.
Huckabee calls his new book non-political. It is an attempt, he says, to encourage readers to connect with their families and the holidays by focusing on such fundamental values as patience, hope and faith. He illustrates his themes with anecdotes from his own life, including several that were staples of his stump speech during his 2008 campaign.
Even so, the questions he parries as he begins to promote the book are mostly political, including at a breakfast Wednesday with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor and an interview with USA TODAY.
He says it's too early for polls to mean much but calls his standing "flattering."
The 2012 election won't be easy for the GOP, he says. Since the late 19th century, he notes, only once has a political party failed to hold the White House for at least eight years at a stretch.