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Mike Huckabee ends FOX News program, fueling speculation for 2016 run

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced Saturday evening, Jan. 3, that he was ending his seven-and-a-half-year run on FOX News to explore his options regarding a possible 2016 presidential run.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced Saturday evening, Jan. 3, that he was ending his seven-and-a-half-year run on FOX News to explore his options regarding a possible 2016 presidential run.

At the conclusion of the Saturday, Jan. 3, episode of “Huckabee” on FOX News, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced that would be his final show. Prior to the show airing, the 2008 presidential candidate shared the news with friends on social media.

“This evening I wanted to share with you some news that is very personal to me. Because you have been such a good friend and a strong supporter of all my efforts, I wanted you to know first that tonight I will do more than just say goodnight on my Fox show. I will say goodbye.

“This is the last edition of Huckabee on the Fox News Channel. It has been the ride of a lifetime, and I have never had so much fun in my life. But I also realize that God hasn¹t put me on earth just to have a good time or to make a good living, but rather has put me on earth to try to make a good life.

“There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for President. I won’t make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015, but the continued chatter has put Fox News into a position that is not fair to them.

“The honorable thing to do at this point is to end my tenure here at Fox so I can openly talk with potential donors and supporters and gauge support. As much as I have loved doing the show, I love my country more, and feel that it may be time for me to leave a zone of comfort to engage in the conflicts that have almost destroyed the bedrock foundations of America. I feel compelled to ascertain if the support exists strongly enough for another Presidential run. So as we say in television, stay tuned!”

The 2016 presidential nominating contest is expected to rival 2008 with a number of candidates, both well-established and lesser-known, expected to test the political waters for both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Huckabee was the winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucus.

Nationally syndicated talk radio host Steve Deace, who in 2008 was the drive-time voice of WHO-AM in Des Moines, has been credited by many with helping to propel Huckabee’s caucus campaign. Deace said he has long expected Huckabee to run again.

“I’ve been telling my audience since last February my best sources indicated Huckabee was running in 2016, so this only confirms what I was already counting on,” he said. “Based on what I’ve heard, I believe you’ll see a better funded, organized, and informed Huckabee than 2008.”

Deace said he saw Huckabee in action last year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and said the former FOX News host was “masterful.” He said the 2016 version of Huckabee will be better-prepared than the 2008 incarnation, but there will be new challenges, as well.

“There was no Tea party in 2008, so he will need to answer fresh skepticism that he’s truly a champion of limited government,” he said. “Issues like his past support for the unpopular Common Core will continue to hound him during the vetting process as well.”

That being said, Deace expects there to be a lot of interest from Iowans for another Huckabee campaign.

“[T]here is no doubt he excites the still-substantial social conservative base and he also appeals to middle class voters, which have deserted Republicans in the past two presidential elections,” he said.

Randy Davis of Ottumwa, a conservative activist who is a personal friend of Huckabee, said he also was not surprised by the announcement. While he suspects there will be “many fine Republican candidates in 2016,” and that he could likely support a number of them, should any one of them win the party’s nomination, he believes Huckabee is in a class of his own.

“In my view, there is no one quite like him, or even anyone similar,” he said. “I feel he has the experience, wisdom, and class that running for President requires. His unusual communication skills would likely be envied by the greatest leaders and orators our nation has produced.”

Davis said Huckabee has become a voice of reason, which has allowed him to convey a conservative message without being overly obstinate or polarizing. He said this will make him more appealing to independents, women, and minorities than other conservatives.

“I have always believed that a great leader is one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way … he, as always, has his finger on the pulse of what ails America – and the solutions to fix what’s broken,” Davis said. “Simply put, America Likes Mike!  He’s charming and charismatic, a gifted speaker with a quick wit and disarming sense of humor. He is the anti-Hillary; the anti-left-wing nut case. Perhaps that is why he continues to lead in most polls that include him.”

Davis said Huckabee has the courage to stick to his convictions, which makes him the perfect example of a servant-leader. He said that is something the nation desperately needs to point the United States in a more hopeful direction.

“[I]f he decides to run, I believe he would beat Hillary Clinton or another Democrat in 2016, and do it convincingly,” he said. “In fact, Mike Huckabee may very well be the uniquely qualified candidate at this time in our nation’s history to bring about a conservative GOP victory in the race for the Oval Office in 2016.”

Davis said Huckabee will have an opportunity in the coming months to answer his critics. He called the “worn out charges” from 2008 – that Huckabee is a big-government progressive, and that he supports the Common Core State Standards – is “just politics.”

He points voters to the Truth About Mike website as a source for “factual information” about Huckabee. He also shared a link for Iowans to volunteer for a potential Mike Huckabee campaign, or to sign up for campaign updates, by filling out the online form that can be accessed by clicking here.

Republican State Central Committeeman Jamie Johnson said he expects Huckabee to be a “formidable” candidate in the 2016 caucus field.

“He is perhaps the only Republican presidential aspirant who may be able to win the GOP nomination while running a general election campaign from Day One,” he said. “His name ID is sky high, and his likability numbers are through the roof.”

In 2008, Huckabee worked hard all across Iowa while the eventual GOP nominee, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, skipped the first-in-the-nation caucus state. With former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hinting at a similar strategy in 2016, State Central Committeeman Gabe Haugland said all of the candidates are encouraged to seriously campaign in Iowa.

“We encourage all potential candidates who are considering a run for President to come to Iowa and compete in the caucuses.”

Davis said he appreciates the vetting function the primary and caucus process will afford Americans. He said he’s not a “it’s either Huckabee or I won’t vote” supporter, and he hopes other conservatives feel the same way.

“Even though a primary provides us the opportunity to choose our pick of the litter, my hope and prayer is that conservatives in general will develop and maintain the proper overall perspective,” he said. “Despite all the emotions, accusations, and arguments that normally ensue, we are all basically on the same team, and should view each other more as allies, rather than opponents – or even enemies.”