Ever since Mike Huckabee announced his decision not to enter the race the prospect of winning over his supporters (evidently out there in droves, though I’ve never met one) has tantalized the remaining candidates and would-be candidates in the GOP hunt. While Huckabee has not endorsed a candidate, and is most likely hoping to tape another 16 months of his TV show before convincing one of the remaining candidates that they need him on a ticket to pull the religious right’s vote (and chase away Independents), his supporters are selecting alternate candidates. One important voice in an important state has decided to do just that. And it’s Huckabee’s former campaign director in The Palmetto State.
Here’s one development since Mike Huckabee left the 2012 presidential race: The chairman of the former Arkansas governor’s campaign in South Carolina says he’ll now back Jon Huntsman.
Huntsman, who recently left his post as U.S. ambassador to China, picked up the support today of Mike Campbell, a businessman and the youngest son of a popular South Carolina governor.
“As governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman demonstrated he is the type of problem-solver our country needs. He’s a proven conservative who cut taxes, grew jobs, passed free-market health care reform, and signed strong pro-life legislation,” Mike Campbell said in a statement.
I have never been one to give credence to the idea that a candidate’s followers are so obedient that they wait to hear who their defeated candidate endorses with bated breath. While it is likely that there is a contingent of Huckabee voters who will only vote for someone as socially conservative and/or religious as Huckabee, the rest will simply drift off towards other candidates for whatever reason strikes their fancy. What strikes me about this endorsement is not that this person in an opinion maker who has a multitude of voters who will vote for Huntsman upon his insistence. It is that a man entrenched in South Carolina politics who helped Huckabee place second in that state’s primary has decided to help Jon Huntsman. His endorsement will not bring with it an instant rush of voters, rather it will bring with it an infrastructure in a key primary state. And from that infrastructure? Access to the Huckabee crowd. Says Politico:
Because he served at the top of Huckabee’s campaign apparatus, it’s a significant get for Huntsman, who is largely unknown in the state.
“With Mike [Campbell] having been at the forefront of the Huckabee campaign, I think it could be a sign that he’s going to take friends, family, fundraising capacity, supporters over to Huntsman,” said one longtime South Carolina operative who has yet to commit to a presidential candidate.
Hopefully this is only the first in a long line of Huckabee supporters that survey the field and discover that Jon Huntsman is the best chance the GOP has to win the presidency in 2012.