Mike Huckabee, the Republican presidential candidate who once claimed victory in Iowa, dropped out of the 2016 race on Monday night after failing to gain traction in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest.
The presidential contender had hoped to replicate past success. Instead, Huckabee seemed washed up in an election where voters are desperate for something different. Sure, Huckabee could point to his 2008 Iowa caucus win, made possible by strong support from evangelical voters, as potential evidence of viability. But why would Christian conservatives, or Republican caucus-goers in general, throw their weight behind a candidate who won Iowa and then failed to win the White House? Voters weren’t willing to give the GOP contender a second chance in 2016. After barely registering in the Iowa vote count, the former Arkansas governor took to Twitter to exit the race. The message was brief: “I am officially suspending my campaign. Thank you for all your loyal support.”
For some prominent evangelicals, defecting from Huckabee was strategic. When Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald Trump in January, he signaled that the old formula for picking elected officials hasn’t worked for Christian conservatives. “For decades, conservatives and evangelicals have chosen the political candidates who have told us what we want to hear on social, religious, and political issues, only to be betrayed by those same candidates after they were elected,” Falwell said. At one time, Falwell had been willing to throw his weight behind Huckabee. He proudly endorsed the candidate, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, in 2007. But this time around, Huckabee looked like part of that old, failed formula, and voters rejected him as a result.