Mike Huckabee has quit his job as a Fox News host because he has an inkling that God wants him to run for president. But, just because the Supreme Being is giving him a thumbs-up, that does not mean the ex-Arkansas governor will get a green light from the demigods of American democracy: billionaires.
Unlike some conservative talkmeisters and would-be candidates, Huckabee does not come off as shrill or bombastic. He’s a likeable guy with a strongly positive image among Republicans. In particular, the former pastor is a hero to evangelical voters, the most dependable contingent in the Republican coalition. In early polls, Huckabee frequently comes in near the head of the large and growing pack of likely GOP presidential contenders. Add to that the years of free publicity from Fox, and it is not at all unreasonable for him to think he should make another run at the White House.
When he ran in 2008, he surprised everyone by winning the Iowa caucus. But ultimately, he did not have what every candidate needs to survive: Himalaya-size mountains of money. In 2012, President Obama and the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, ended up spending about $1 billion each. The 2016 presidential race is expected to be even more expensive.
We are already in the opening stages of that campaign, and all the serious candidates – or at least the candidates who take themselves seriously – are on the hunt for major donors who will pay so they can play. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, surprised a lot of people in the last few weeks by getting serious about running. Right away, the vaults of the wealthy started clinking open with the prospect of investing in the son and brother of past presidents. The well-heeled establishment likes a safe bet, and Bush seems to be it, much to the chagrin of other establishment darlings.
Billionaires are generally not tea party zealots who feed on dreams of overturning big government and driving liberals, homosexuals and atheists into the sea. Billionaires do not want revolution, they just want to stay on top. For them, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is too hot-blooded, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is too exotic, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is too callow, and outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry is too slow on the uptake. Chris Christie of New Jersey and a couple of other governors would be OK for the rich and their corporate PACs, but Bush seems just right.
And Huckabee? He is about as right wing and evangelical as they come, but his style is soothing, not alarming. He has run a state. He can put more than two sentences together. But the fans of unfettered capitalism at the Club for Growth say that, as governor, Huckabee had a disturbing affinity for raising taxes and increasing government spending. Plus, Huckabee takes his Bible seriously and has a soft spot for the poor and disadvantaged. Billionaires might not like that.
Here's the botom line: Whether you like Huckabee or Hillary Clinton or any of the others, unless you happen to have a billion bucks, you will not have much say in whom the nominees for president will be. The billionaires will vet the choices over the coming months. The rest of us will only weigh in after the money has spoken.