Huckabee to Announce Presidential Candidacy Plans

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, whom polls have shown would be a top contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, will announce whether he will take the first steps to enter the race on his program on the Fox News cable television channel today.

“Will he or won’t he make a White House run? The Gov gives his answer on Huckabee!,” teased a note posted yesterday on the show’s website.

The program’s executive producer, Woody Fraser, said in a statement yesterday that Huckabee “will announce tomorrow night on his program whether he intends to explore a presidential bid. He has not told anyone at Fox News Channel his decision.”

Huckabee, 55, also urged followers on Twitter to watch his media appearances on Fox News programs over the weekend. He previously has said he would decide this summer whether to seek the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year. His program airs at 8 p.m. Washington time.

“I want it to be a decision that I make on the Fox News channel and I want it to be on my show,” Huckabee said today in an interview on the show Fox and Friends. “It will be, I think, worth watching tonight.”

Social Conservatives’ Backing

After beginning a run for his party’s 2008 nomination as a little-known underdog, Huckabee rode support from religious and social conservatives to win that year’s Republican Iowa caucuses and emerge as a serious contender. Though he lost the nomination to Arizona Senator John McCain, he parlayed his support into the “Huckabee” show on Fox News.

Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who headed Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, said yesterday he spoke with him a week ago to review his former boss’s potential to win support from activists in early caucus and primary states and to raise money for another campaign.

Rollins said he told Huckabee to call him back once he’d made a decision about whether he would run. “I’ve had no contact and no connection with him since,” Rollins said, causing him to expect that Huckabee will pass on running again.

‘Plenty of Support’

If he does run, Rollins said, “There’s plenty of support out there for him, and unlike four years ago, he’s a front- runner.”

Polls have shown Huckabee leading or near the top as the presidential preference of Republican-leaning voters.

Huckabee, a native of former President Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope, Arkansas, and a onetime Baptist minister, was elected lieutenant governor of the state in a 1993 special election. Three years later, he replaced Jim Guy Tucker as governor after the Democrat resigned in the midst of a financial scandal. Huckabee served until January 1997.

As governor, he pushed through changes to the state’s education and health-insurance systems, including expanding coverage for children whose families didn’t qualify for Medicaid. Angering some in his party, he raised fuel taxes to finance a road-building program in 1999.

He also commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 convicts, a decision that was attacked by his opponents during the 2008 presidential campaign. Those actions gained renewed attention in 2009 when a man whose sentence Huckabee commuted in 2000 killed four police officers in Washington state.

Other Candidates

Among other Republicans, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia officially announced his candidacy earlier this week, and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas did the same yesterday.

Two former governors, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, have created exploratory committees that can raise money for potential presidential campaigns. The statement by Fraser indicates Huckabee will be announcing whether he intends to set up such a committee.

Other potential Republican candidates include Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to China at the end of April.

The lack of a clear Republican frontrunner has encouraged others, including Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Tea Party favorite, and real estate developer Donald Trump to position themselves for potential runs.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said April 25 that he wouldn’t enter the race because he lacked an “absolute fire in the belly” to run.

As the Republican race gears up, Obama has already opened a 2012 re-election campaign headquarters in Chicago. He raised millions of dollars last month at events in Illinois, California and New York.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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