The evangelical primary just got more crowded. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a hero to religious conservatives, officially entered the 2016 presidential race at a launch event in Arkansas Tuesday.
Huckabee joins a growing pool of candidates hoping to unite social conservatives behind them. Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal are all explicitly courting those voters, and evangelical groups such as the Family Research Council hope to coalesce behind one candidate by the fall.
If Huckabee has an advantage, it's through his long history with the social conservative movement. He won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, and his advisors think that separates him from the competition—including the 2012 Iowa victor, Santorum. "Santorum rented Iowa. Huckabee owns it," one advisor told National Journal in February.
But the field is more crowded and more conservative than it was in 2008, meaning Huckabee will have to prove himself all over again—this time with the politically gifted Cruz added to the mix.
Hoping to separate himself, Huckabee is also playing up his record as an economic populist, bemoaning wage stagnation and "cheap foreign labor that devalues American labor." He told the Associated Press in February that a Huckabee agenda would put national security at the fore, "economic sanity" second, and social issues third.
Even if Huckabee wins Iowa—repeating the high point of his 2008 success—he'll need a new tact to avoid a similar crash: He placed third in New Hampshire and second in South Carolina. By the time he came in fourth in the Florida primary, his momentum (and money) had petered out, and he bowed out after losing Texas to eventual nominee John McCain.
Huckabee previewed his campaign in January with the release of his latest book, the cheekily-titled God, Guns, Grits and Gravy. In it, he took aim at pop culture touchstones, calling out rapper Jay-Z as the "pimp" to wife Beyonce, lamented the "decline of patriotism" and mourned the "eroding" of the Constitution.