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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February in Washington, D.C.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Among the many contenders who could wind up becoming presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, there are some potential surprises — like former presidential candidate-turned TV and radio host Mike Huckabee.
Putting Huckabee on the GOP ticket could certainly liven up the presidential race. In addition to being a respected former governor of Arkansas, he's well known for his good-natured public persona. At a Huckabee campaign event, you might find him playing an electric bass with the old-time rock 'n' roll band Capitol Offense.
Playfulness aside, one big plus is that Huckabee has been tested, having run a surprisingly strong race for the Republican nomination four years ago.
A Tried And True Conservative
"You know I wasn't sure that I would ever be able to love a state as much as I love my home state of Arkansas, but tonight, I love Iowa a whole lot," Huckabee said after winning the 2008 Iowa caucuses, thanks to a big turnout among evangelical voters. But his underfunded campaign faded in later contests.
Many think he'd have been a front-runner this year, given his strong 2008 showing, his vastly improved name recognition and better fundraising.
But last spring, he disappointed potential followers with this statement on his weekend TV show on Fox News: "I can't know or predict the future, but I know for now my answer is clear and firm. I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year."
A vice presidential race, however, is hardly the two-year grind of a presidential run.
Janine Parry, a political scientist and pollster at the University of Arkansas, says Huckabee would provide some real positives as Romney's running mate.
"I think the most obvious way in which it would be a good decision and a comprehensible decision is that it shores up his support with Christian evangelicals," Parry says.
So far this year, evangelicals have been lukewarm toward Romney, but if he needs independent voters, then Huckabee — a former Baptist minister — likely wouldn't help much.
Shy Of Confrontation?
Huckabee's likability is a plus. It's a driving force behind his daily talk radio show, where his promos say it's about conversation, not confrontation.
"I have people on my show that are as polar opposite of me philosophically as someone can be, but I'm always going to treat them with respect," he said in an interview earlier this year with NPR's media correspondent, David Folkenflik.
Such talk doesn't necessarily make Huckabee a good pick to play the traditional role often assigned to the vice presidential nominee, that of attack dog. Still, he demonstrated on his show this week that he is comfortable going negative.
"It's all about this crazy stuff that Obama's been going off on this week about business, and how that if you're successful in business, you didn't do it — wasn't your doing, the government did it for you," Huckabee said.
Like Romney, Huckabee is happy to skip the context in which the president made that statement earlier this month in Roanoke, Va.
Other likely disqualifiers for Huckabee are the controversial commutations and pardons he handed out as governor, including some where people committed violent crimes after their release. Then there's Huckabee's record of tax increases as governor, which was an issue in 2008.
On top of that, there's no indication Huckabee would even say yes if picked.
But if he did, Parry says, "It would not be dull. I think that it could really sizzle." With the possible danger that Huckabee might outshine the ticket's lead singer.