The Fight for Huckabee's Endorsement

Fawning GOP candidates scramble to win his approval

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After Mike Huckabee dramatically announced Saturday night that he would not be running for president, the remaining Republican GOP candidates began scrambling to win his approval. Huckabee was previously a leader in the GOP polls, and an endorsement by him could go a long way in Iowa. After his announcement, the GOP candidates rushed to sweet talk Huckabee into joining their side.

So whose official statement made the best impression? Well, it was something of a mixed bag:

Most bizarre. Donald Trump's statement came in a sudden, jarring cameo at the end of Huckabee's show, like it was judging time on an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice." It was the oddest moment of a singularly odd hour of television, and a classic Trump move to steal the show, even at the risk of being tasteless. We can't see Huckabee being thrilled about that. From Trump's televised statement:

This might be considered by some people — not necessarily me — bad news because he is a terrific guy and frankly I think he’d be a terrific president. But a lot of people are very happy that he will not be running, especially the other candidates. So, Mike, enjoy the show, your ratings are terrific, you’re making a lot of money, you’re building a beautiful house in Florida, good luck.

Most political. Rick Santorum provided the only statement where he aligned himself with Huckabee politically -- and pitted the two of them against other members of the party -- by saying that both shared the fight for "traditional values" while others "in our party seek to form a 'truce' on social issues".

I have long admired Governor Huckabee and his commitment to talking about the critical issues facing America. Those of us who believe in the virtues and values of life and family can never have enough allies, and I am grateful to Governor Huckabee for helping to keep those issues front and center. As some in our party seek to form a 'truce' on social issues, I look forward to a dialogue with Governor Huckabee and his supporters to talk of our shared commitment to fight for traditional values and the rights granted to us by our forefathers. Finally, I was particularly moved by his honesty in revealing the reason for his decision. He above all prayerfully sought God's will for his life.

Most grandiose. Tough call, but Jon Huntsman's statement sounds slightly more lofty than the rest, with its semi-pompous designation of Huckabee as a noble "public servant" and faux-lament about the loss of Huckabee's bass guitar come debate time.

Our country has been very fortunate to have Mike Huckabee as a leader and public servant. His commitment to this country and its core values -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- is a model to which all elected officials should aspire. It is unfortunate that we will not have his voice -- or his bass guitar -- in the presidential debate, as our party would have benefited from his involvement. Yet I'm confident that he will continue to be a positive force in the national conversation no matter his future endeavors and I look forward to his continued friendship.

Most aloof. In a statement to reporters, Tim Pawlenty called Huckabee "an important leader" and merely wished him "all the best." Is that the most he could do? Not one use of "hero"? But sometimes less is more.

Mike Huckabee is a friend and colleague, and an important leader within the Republican Party. Mike and I agree our nation is facing big challenges and desperately needs new leadership, and I plan to work hard to earn the support of the millions of Americans who have supported him. Mary and I wish Mike and Janet all the best.

Most ingratiating. If Huckabee is looking for sheer devotion and effort, advantage Gingrich. He had the longest, best researched, and most loving statement. It almost reads like a eulogy.

Governor Mike Huckabee emerged in 2008 as a new star for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Over the last 3 years he has used his gifts to create a popular Fox News TV show, produce an amazingly successful radio commentary, write best-selling books, and deliver thought provoking speeches. All have increased his stature and his influence.

Had Governor Huckabee decided to run, there is no question he would have been a frontrunner in the 2012 campaign for president. He has achieved that prominence without a campaign simply based on his personal appeal and the attractiveness of his views and his character.

His statement tonight emphasized the spiritual dimension of his life and his decision process. It is a wonderful example for all Americans of someone trying to do the right thing.

Governor Huckabee will remain a major force for conservatism and he will play a major role in shaping America's future. Callista and I wish him and his family a wonderful, happy, and successful future.

Most sincere. The only candidate not to submit a fawning statement about Huckabee last night was Mitt Romney, who, Ben Smith notes, "Huckabee loathes." Probably better that he's saving his efforts.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.