Mike Huckabee: My Fox News Show Helps Me For 2016

Potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says his Fox News platform is helping him in the crucial primary state of Iowa.

A Huckabee profile from Real Clear Politics (RCP) documents the Fox host's recent trip to Iowa to support Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. According to reporter Scott Conroy, Huckabee was approached by several “Iowa Republican activists and volunteers” who told the Fox News host that they regularly watch his show.

Huckabee reportedly cited his platform at the network with helping put him in a “very good place to be” as he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, explaining that it has helped increase his visibility and name recognition in Iowa because he has “been in these people's homes every week”:

As a driver shuttled him between events, Huckabee told RealClearPolitics that his work on Fox has put him in a “very good place to be” politically as a self-imposed decision date looms in the early spring of next year.

“When I came up here eight years ago, nobody knew who I was,” he said. “I had to spell my name. They didn't recognize me, and that was true all over the country. And now I come back, and I've been in these people's homes every week.”

Huckabee isn't the first Fox employee/politician to credit their role at the network with helping their political aspirations. In July, former Fox News contributor turned Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown told Fox News Radio that being on the network “really charged me up” to run for office. When he was running for president in 2012, former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum pointed to his Fox role as having “been big” because it “helped folks remember who I am.”

Fox continues to allow its employees to publicly weigh runs for office while remaining on the network payroll. As Conroy points out, Huckabee's Fox News show gives him “hundreds of hours of free advertising that hits some of the most reliable Republican voters,” which is “the kind of media exposure that any of the more frequently talked about GOP contenders can only dream of.”

During the run-up to the 2012 Republican primary in 2010, Media Matters calculated that Fox News had essentially gifted its five employees that were considering running with roughly $55 million in free advertising. Huckabee was by far the biggest beneficiary, with about $31 million worth of free airtime.

Though Huckabee declined to run in 2012, Conroy reports that “the consensus among many plugged-in conservatives in his orbit is that he is already determined” to enter the 2016 race.

As then-Daily Beast reporter and current Fox News host Howard Kurtz noted during the ethical mess that was the 2012 Fox News Primary, “The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot.”  

Even if he has already decided to run, Huckabee seems well-aware of the tightrope he needs to walk between teasing a run and actually formally declaring one if he wants to keep his Fox News show:

Asked about his decision-making process this time around, Huckabee sounded conflicted.

“I've got four grandkids, and I really care what's going to happen to them,” he said. “If I were to create an exploratory committee or tell people that I'm going to run, obviously, I've just crossed a threshold, and I'm done [at Fox]. So I've got to be very thoughtful about this. I can't do it lightheartedly. I can't put my toe in the water. I jump in the deep end from Day One or I don't do it.”

Meanwhile, the network is happy to help him build buzz about a possible run on-air.

Huckabee isn't the only Fox News contributor benefiting from the prominent platform while he ponders a 2016 presidential run. As he continues to make frequent appearances on the network, Fox News contributor Ben Carson has indicated the “likelihood is strong” he plans to run. Fox employee John Bolton is also reportedly considering entering the race.