Columns » John Brummett

Huckabee might run to stay on TV

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As a Fox News television talent alone, Mike Huckabee is not as compelling as Sean Hannity or as commanding as Bill O'Reilly or even as good-looking as Greta van Susteren.  

Huckabee's unique currency as a media/show biz personality is that, as viable presidential contenders go, he plays pretty good bass guitar and can deliver a glib quip.  

I wouldn't think that Mitt Romney could do nearly as well as a member of a Fox News house cover band playing Lynyrd Skynyrd. I wouldn't think that Tim Pawlenty could do nearly as well delivering an in-studio monologue for a Saturday night TV show that only a niche audience watches.  

So here is the uncommonly ironic predicament in which Huckabee finds himself: He has fashioned a generous media/show biz income from this peculiar brand he has made of himself as the glibbest guitar-playing viable presidential contender in America. He has mortgaged this curve-graded stardom to the hilt for a Redneck Riviera mansion and other trappings to which he has always been uncommonly drawn. But now he faces the prospect of maybe having to run again for president — and give up the media stardom for that duration — in order to re-up his brand for continued media/show biz viability.

That is to say he might need to run for president, though not, of course, actually to be president. That's no fun. 

What happens to Huckabee's long-term TV career — and the sidelights of radio commentary, high-dollar speechmaking and Christian sea cruise hosting — if he does not run again for president, thus losing his meal ticket as the quipping guitarist who actually is an outside threat to inhabit the White House?  

He'd have to make it on Fox on Saturday nights by guitar playing and quips alone. But there are better guitar players and funnier comedians. 

What will happen to that long-term TV career if Huckabee parlays quips and name identification into the Republican presidential nomination against this comically weak field? What happens if he looks up one day to find, to his certain horror, that he must actually bear the standard of Obama-hating Americans and stop rehearsing for show biz and start pondering the presidency seriously?  

Most likely, one could not serve at once as the Republican president of the United States and as the host of a Saturday night talk show on Fox, although this time-honored separation of roles and responsibilities is no longer as clear and certain as it once was. 

I remain on record predicting that Huckabee, in the end, will opt not to run for president.   

That's because his ultimate calculation will be that his over-arching career goal, that of ongoing media/show biz personality, can best be pursued by sticking with that career as it exists, even without renewal of the political brand, rather than by risking having to take off four whole years, which would be all the American people could possibly survive, to function as best he might as president of the United States.  

He does not want to be president. He did not even want to be governor. He wants to gab; he wants to get paid by the word; he wants his own microphone and camera; he wants an adapted Falwell-Robertson kind of appeal; he wants to put out pamphlets and call them books; he wants stuff.  

Might I be wrong in my prediction? Might he run?    

His challenge will be finding someone in this Republican field to whom he can be certain of running second.  

The best bet seems to be Romney, who, as it happens, is the one rival Huckabee cannot stand. That serves only to compound the ironic predicament.

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