As a regular presence on the Fox News Channel for six years, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 59, hasn’t exactly been hiding in the political shadows. Though he didn’t vie for the presidency in 2012, he’s been regularly airing his conservative and evangelical views on his top-rated weekend show, Huckabee. An outspoken opponent of abortion and gay marriage, this “man of deep faith,” as he calls himself, has also been a presence on weekday radio.
Now the ordained Southern Baptist minister is leaving the media lights to consider a possible run for the GOP nomination for the White House in 2016.
On Saturday night, he told Fox viewers, “I’m not going to make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015, but the continued [political] chatter has put Fox News in a position that just isn’t fair to them.” On his Facebook page he wrote, “The honorable thing to do at this point is 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… 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.”
Huckabee’s decision to "engage" complicates the increasingly diverse field of potential GOP contenders for 2016, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL). Huckabee won the Iowa Republican caucuses in 2008 with 34 percent of the vote and ultimately came in second in the delegate count and third in both the popular vote and number of states won, behind John McCain and Mitt Romney. What he lacked then in financial power and political gravitas may be less of an issue now.
Here are other key details about Huckabee:
1: He was born into a blue-collar family in Hope, Arkansas (the same hometown as Bill Clinton). He is the son of conservative Southern Democrats and is of English ancestry.
2: His father was a firefighter and a part-time mechanic; his mother worked as a clerk at a gas company. “It was probably not until I was a teenager that I realized how much of a struggle it was just to pay the rent on the little rent house we lived in,” he told ABC News years later.
3: His first job was reading the news and weather at a radio station when he was 14.
4: The first in his family to graduate from high school, Huckabee enrolled in a four-year program at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and graduated in two-and-a-half years with a degree in religion. He entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, dropping out after a year to work in Christian broadcasting for televangelist James Robinson.
5: In 1980, he became pastor at a Baptist church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he encouraged the all-white church to accept black members. From 1986 to 1992, he was pastor at a Baptist church in Texarkana and active in the Chamber of Commerce and United Way.
6: He and his high school sweetheart Janet were married in 1974 after their first year of college when they were 18 (she also attended Ouachita Baptist University). Janet ultimately graduated from John Brown University, a Christian liberal arts college in Arkansas.
7: Janet was diagnosed with cancer of the spine two years after their marriage. She was told she could become paralyzed and infertile. After six weeks of radiation therapy, she recovered and went on to have the couple’s three children. “He [Mike] took care of me and helped me learn to walk again,” she told Newsweek. The couple today has four grandchildren.
8: In 1989 Mike Huckabee became the youngest-ever president of the nearly 500,000-member Arkansas Baptist State Convention. That leadership position led to his first (and failed) run for the U.S. Senate against conservative Democrat Dale Bumpers, the incumbent, in 1992. During the campaign, Huckabee advocated separating sufferers of HIV/AIDS from the rest of the population, telling the Associated Press, “We need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.”
9: In 1993, Huckabee won a special election for lieutenant governor of Arkansas. He became governor in 1996 when Governor Jim Guy Tucker was convicted on federal charges of fraud and conspiracy connected to the Whitewater real estate scandal. Huckabee was elected to full terms in 1998 and 2002, achieving the third-longest tenure of any Arkansas governor.
10: In 2007, he announced a run for the GOP nomination for president – but in March 2008, he withdrew when it was clear John McCain would claim the delegates needed for the nomination. Huckabee was said to be on McCain’s shortlist for the vice presidency but was ultimately passed over for Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. In June of that year, he joined Fox News as a political commentator.
11: The author of 11 books, including an autobiography, From Hope to Higher Ground (2007), Huckabee has a new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, due out shortly, which is said to share his “realistic yet optimistic” view of moving the country forward.
12: Just a day after Huckabee said he was exploring a White House bid for 2016, fellow conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham predicted he doesn’t stand a chance. “I like Mike a lot. I think he’s really strong. But he would probably do better if he had run for one of the two open Senate seats in Arkansas,” she told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “The idea that Mike Huckabee is going to be president of the United States? I’ll predict that’s not going to happen.”
13: Long a music buff, Huckabee plays electric bass guitar in a classic rock cover band called Capitol Offense, which has performed at political events and parties.
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