The 2015 political season kicked off with a bombshell hitting the 2016 GOP Primary field, with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee announcing that he would be leaving his Fox News program to explore a run for president. This announcement comes at a time when the GOP primary field is as convoluted as ever, and many conservatives are praying for an alternative to establishment Republican Jeb Bush, who has been narrowly leading the field in most recent national polling. That being said, conservatives who have come to love Huckabee’s likable posture on television and identify with him over years of watching him on Fox News (an advantage that will certainly help him in his run) may be forgetting a disturbing pattern of liberal positions he took, new taxes he imposed and big spending bills that he signed into law as governor. Considering the fact that Huckabee has not run since 2008, a time when the GOP was far less conservative than it is today, there is reason to believe that once Huckabee’s positions are exposed to the voting public they will find him less appealing as an executive than they did as a TV show host.
Probably the single largest obstacle to a Mike Huckabee run for the GOP nomination will be overcoming his liberal record on taxation. Huckabee raised taxes by $883.1 million as governor, and the states debt services increased by nearly $1 billion. The average Arkansan’s tax burden increased by 47% under Huckabee’s leadership according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and his tax record as governor made Bill Clinton look like a fiscal conservative. In fact, his fiscal record as governor was comparable to the most liberal in the nation, as the Cato Institute rated him among the bottom 5 governors in the nation during his term. His tax hikes include taxes on income, sales, gas, cigarettes, and his support for an internet sales tax. Huckabee even supported and passed a tax increase on beds in nursing homes. These may have been obstacles that Huckabee was able to overcome in a 2008 Republican Party that was still largely in denial about the dangers of the big government Republicanism of George W Bush, but in a modern day GOP with a renewed commitment to fiscal conservatism these will prove very problematic for him.
After taxation, the largest priority for most fiscal conservatives is government spending. Unfortunately for Huckabee, he fares even worse in this department. Government spending increased by 65% when Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, and the number of government employees increased by 20%. It should also be noted that these increases were from the already high numbers left to him by Bill Clinton, who wasn’t running a conservative state budget to begin with. These spending increases went to a variety of things such as healthcare and the parks system, but the most notable use of the money was to pay for in state tuition for illegal immigrants in Arkansas. The program also made illegal immigrants eligible for college scholarships, and Huckabee characterized Republican attempts to eliminate the funds for the program as “unchristian”. Huckabee signed a mandate into law as governor requiring companies to provide contraception to their employees, even if the individual business owner was morally opposed to it. You read that correctly, the ultra social conservative Mike Huckabee signed a birth control mandate into law as governor! This may be the single greatest example of Huckabee’s TV personality contrasting sharply with his tenure as governor.
On federal issues that affected his state, Huckabee was no better. Huckabee applauded the passage of the No Child Left Behind act at the federal level, supports Common Core and lamented the Senate’s inability to pass cap and trade legislation. He has supported subsidizing healthcare at the federal level as well as wasteful agricultural subsidies for ethanol. Huckabee also supported a minimum wage increase as governor, which shifted a higher cost burden onto Arkansas businesses. These positions paint a picture of an extreme fiscal liberal who believes that government is the answer to every problem, not a conservative champion who is ready to make our arguments to the public at large as GOP nominee.
Mike Huckabee talks a great game from the conservative perspective, a skill that he has no doubt mastered in his 8 years of being in the national spotlight and several years on television. That being said, your record doesn’t simply change because you start making different statements, and generally people who have a sudden conversion to fiscal conservatism once they run for office are being disingenuous. Conservative activists need to look at a Mike Huckabee candidacy with the same skepticism that they viewed Mitt Romney’s run, because his record is just as bad if not worse. Failure to carefully examine Huckabee’s fiscal record will lead to moderate GOP nominee number 3 in the last 3 election cycles, and that is a blow the conservative movement cannot afford to take.