Columns » Max Brantley

Huckabucks

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Bemoan the influence of money in politics, but accept it. Voters aren't likely to know a candidate's name and ideas without a campaign treasury sufficient to pound them into voters' brains.

Given that reality – and the lack of other things to write about three years in advance of the next presidential election – fund-raising commands a fair amount of attention from the political press. This is too bad for Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who hopes to run for president again.

His “leadership” PAC filed a Grade F six-month finance report last week. He raised only $304,000. Sarah Palin raised more than twice as much. Mitt Romney raised more than six times as much. Newt Gingrich raised 25 times as much. Huckabee has $63,000 in debt. He's had to “restructure” the PAC. His daughter-in-law is no longer on the Huckabee payroll (though his daughter and a niece continue the Huckabee family tradition of drawing support from political contributions).

Huckabee says he's perfectly happy with the money and efforts of grassroots volunteers nurtured by his website. But the results were so poor that even some strong Huckabee supporters are suggesting the emperor needs some duds

One of them is Jason Tolbert, a 33-year-old CPA and politics hobbyist who's become a prolific blogger and reporter on Arkansas politics at his tolbertreport.com. Tolbert is a Huckabee volunteer coordinator. He was an alternate national convention delegate for Huckabee in 2008 and helped run the Huck's Army website during the campaign. He's also a straight shooter.

He wrote, “If Gov. Huckabee is serious about running for President again in 2012 and all indications are that he is, then he must address this problem. I think it is wonderful that he has been successful with his ventures in television and radio. If he chooses to focus on that, then great. But if he really wants to be a contender, then he must get serious about fundraising and he must raise these funds directly.”

Kevin Tracy, an Indiana blogger and Huckabee supporter, also was put out by Palin's stronger fund-raising. He wrote that “any number below Palin's is a colossal failure for Huckabee and Huck PAC. … Two months ago, Mike Huckabee would have had the advantage over her because he's better spoken, more popular, and considerably more experienced. That changes today because Palin has proven that she can bring in the base of the evangelical base but also raise twice as much money as Governor Huckabee.”

Huckabee is not a total failure at the money game. With a TV show on Fox and radio syndication, he has a budding media conglomerate. There's no telling  how much he raises from private speaking fees, though this endeavor has embarrassed him.

Political professionals were stunned that Huckabee charged a Republican congressional candidate almost $34,000 to speak at his Alabama fund-raiser, an event that went deeply in the red. Huckabee is also busy speaking at churches and  other groups. Nobody who knows Huckabee's veneration of the dollar expects that he's doing many, if any, of these appearances for free.

What does Mike Huckabee really want? Riches? Or public service? It is hard for Huckabee to separate the two. He wouldn't have his radio, TV and private speaking gigs had he not been a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. But can he be a successful candidate again if most of his money-raising energy is directed at his personal bank account?

Live by the gold standard, die by the gold standard.

 

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