Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee pulled the plug on his Fox News Channel talk show on Saturday in order to “gauge support” for a second presidential run.
In an email to supporters and in comments at the close of his weekly show, Huckabee alluded to tensions inherent in approaching potential donors and backers for a presidential campaign while holding a high-profile post on a news channel. He suggested at one point that Fox had nudged him to depart or forswear a White House bid, saying he agreed with the network that “this is the right thing and now is the right time.”
“There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for president,” Huckabee said. “If I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show. But I can’t make such a declaration. I won’t make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015, but the continued chatter has put Fox News into a position that is not fair to them nor is it possible for me to openly determine political and financial support to justify a race. The honorable thing to do at this point is to end my tenure here at Fox.”
He closed his six-and-a-half-year talk show tenure with a plug for his upcoming book — “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy” — and added: “I say goodbye, but as we say in television: stay tuned. There’s more to come.”
His strong suggestion of a pending campaign was a turnaround from the last political cycle, when Huckabee considered a second consecutive bid but ultimately announced, from the same perch, that he would “gladly” continue on television rather than seek the presidency.
“All the factors say go, but my heart says no,” Huckabee told viewers then.
In his 2008 campaign, Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, parlayed his connections among the strongly religious voters in Iowa’s start-off caucuses. He won seven other contests, mostly in the South, but ultimately lost the nomination to Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Huckabee’s Saturday announcement did little to clarify the potentially crowded Republican field for 2016. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced last month that he was considering a bid, and he has spent the weeks since disentangling himself from various business interests.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has spent months in barely-disguised preparations for a campaign; Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his home-state senator, Ted Cruz, have criss-crossed the early presidential states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Others pondering whether to run include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and a handful of governors, including New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Ohio’s John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Former U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who lost to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer in 2010, also is looking toward a run. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has taken himself out of contention.
Were he to run, Huckabee’s impact could be felt most acutely by a candidate such as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who rallied religious voters in 2012 in the former Arkansas governor’s absence.
The Democratic contest, at least at this early and hypothetical stage, has been dominated by former Secretary of State, New York Sen. and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Others looking at a race include outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. Vice President Joe Biden remains in the wings as well, and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has also traveled to Iowa to try to rev up interest in a campaign.
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Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.