Style: Still playing the Hope and humble origin cards without hesitation. Offered up a smoothly told biography, aided by a TelePrompTer and a nicely written text. Put populist economics front and center. Jabbed at Jeb: “I grew up blue collar; not blue blood.”
Substance: Called for better treatment of veterans, criticized Obama administration policies across the board, and denounced runaway judges, Saudi sheiks, and Russian thugs. Called for term limits, a new tax code based on consumption, and the preservation of Social Security, all with details to come.
Best moment: His extended denunciation of all the ways DC is out of touch with the rest of America was the colloquial, clever, and commonsensical Huckabee at his best.
Worst moment: Still talks about money–his own personal wealth and the solicitation of campaign contributions–with awkward fixation.
Overall: Repeatedly staked his claim as the candidate of the working class, the Lord, and Main Street, as he strummed every known right-wing populist chord. At times, felt more like a paid speech or TV performance than the launch of a heroic new mission fueled by conviction and calling. Displayed the benefits of having run before (the cadences of a confident campaign), but barely updated his message from his last go-round, which failed to net the Oval Office two cycles ago. Still, with a polarizing Democrat in the White House, financial anxiety high, and a slew of Southern contests next March, Huckabee put the party on notice that he aims to be a different kind of first-tier candidate. Again.
Note: The overall grade is not an average of the style and substance grades, but takes into account other aspects of the announcement, such as staging and crowd reaction. In addition, a candidate’s overall grade reflects the degree to which the candidate’s standing in the race is improved by the event and performance.