Mike Huckabee: A Colloquial, Clever Appeal to the Working Class

Analyzing the style, substance, and impact of the former Arkansas governor's presidential announcement.

Mike Huckabee announces his presidential campaign on May 5, 2015, in Hope, Ark.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

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.