If you are wondering why Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee would ever agree on anything you simply need to remember that politics sometimes makes very strange bedfellows. They may both have very different reasons for supporting an SEC Primary but both will be very happy if it comes to pass. In an interview recently Mike Huckabee went so far as to call the new primary date a “Gift from God”.
What is an SEC Primary? For a more detailed look you can read this article by the AJC. Basically it an idea thought up by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. It is an attempt to coordinate the dates of a number of southern states that have been somewhat ignored or at least taken for granted recently. It would create a primary on March 1st creating an essentially updated version of Super Tuesday held in 2012.
Elections officials in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas have all either confirmed or are working to seal their intent to hold March 1 primaries. Even some states without SEC schools are considering joining like Virginia and Oklahoma. The Big 3 of early primary states which includes Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina would still be ahead of this SEC primary, but it would follow soon after and potentially weaken the impact of those three states.
The Super Tuesday event of 2012 was far different because it included states all over the map from Georgia to Alaska. This is an attempt to coordinate a geographic region. This will potentially make it easier for candidates to stump and visit the states as opposed to blink and you miss them visits in the past. Brian Kemp is essentially trying to get more spotlight on Georgia. But I bet when he came up with the name SEC primary he also assumed Alabama would be the national champions. Ohio State proved that the best of plans don’t always happen as you intended.
Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are already starting to take notice and have started frequenting the Peach state and other states in the region. Florida being Florida will likely not join and with the third largest population in the country they are big enough to demand attention whenever they hold a primary. There is a risk that candidates would still largely ignore the states with smaller populations. Texas and Florida remain the big prizes in the region and Texas might join this coalition. Then come states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia all with similar populations. I imagine the amount of time a candidate spends in a state will depend on the amount of donors and population just as it always has. There is a distinct possibility candidates would focus on Texas which is the second most populous state and ignore states like Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi with far smaller populations.
Why Mike Huckabee is Happy about an SEC Primary?
He is happy because he knows this is the region of the country where he stands his best chance to win some states or at least come close to winning. His book God, Guns, Grits and Gravy was tailor written for the socially conservative South and even included the most regionally identifiable food in the title.
There is little doubt that this book was written for the purpose of winning many southern states in the Republican primary. He hits on all the hot button topics and red meat of the extremely conservative primary voters. Although the book could have more aptly have been named God, Guns, and Gays, he wisely chose Grits instead to soften the tone of the title. But fear not, there is plenty of homophobic rhetoric inside the book. He also decided to attack Beyonce and a few others singers and celebrities.
Suffice it to say Huckabee is pleased by the prospect of a large March 1 primary because if he can manage to win a few of these SEC states he would stand a much better chance of eventually winning it all as the field narrows. Ted Cruz is also likely salivating at this prospect since he too stand to benefit. Expect several candidates who finish near the bottom of the pack after March 1st to drop out not long after as big money will gravitate towards the top two or three winners. Money only buys you influence if your candidate wins. The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the other elite will throw their billions at the candidates who have a chance to win. Thanks again Citizens United!
Jon Stewart interviewed Huckabee recently and took him to task on some of his more outlandish claims in the book. You can watch the interview below. Jon Stewart may be a comedian, but he is also one of the more astute and politically savvy commentators in the country and is never afraid to ask the tough questions. I especially loved the part of the interview where Stewart challenged Huckabee that Americans who live on the coasts are somehow less than the “real” Americans in Huckabee’s heartland.
Why is Hillary Clinton Happy about an SEC Primary?
Actually this could apply to any Democratic candidate running for president in 2016, not just Hillary Clinton. Hillary is considered the presumptive nominee, but she was also considered the presumptive nominee back in 2008 when she lost. Like Huckabee she also published a book to boost her presidential run. It is called Hard Choices.
It is possible she might not win, but no matter who wins they will likely benefit from the fact that an SEC primary will likely boost candidates that are extremely socially conservative and potentially damage more moderate candidates who stand a better chance to win. I think America thinks it is time for a female president as long as they also feel she is the most qualified. Hillary meets that criteria and is the person to beat not because she is a woman but because a majority of Americans currently feel she is the best choice. But things may change so she still needs to campaign hard and correct some errors from 2008.
The rest of the country is by and large far more “liberal” than the south. Even bright red western states don’t seem to have as much of a problem with marriage equality or medical cannabis as the Bible Belt for example. Alaska is about as red as they come and they just joined Colorado, Oregon, and Washington with legalizing recreational marijuana use. The West has a much more freedom and liberty slant than the south who don’t mind dictating their religion into policy matters. Red states in other regions are more concerned about taxes, jobs, and freedom whereas in Georgia we have a bill to introduce “religious liberty” that should probably be called the religious discrimination bill instead.
Huckabee’s book and message in God, Guns, Grits and Gravy is not going to resonate as much in other parts of the country. The SEC primary will be his best bet to gain momentum in other states. The Democrats will likely stand a far better chance at defeating a person like Huckabee than someone more moderate. At the moment no Republican candidate in polls stand a chance of beating Hillary, but these numbers will tighten once we get closer to November 4, 2016.
Here are the latest numbers from Real Clear Politics. Against Huckabee she polls at +14.4 points ahead. Christie +9.2. Bush +9.2. Rand Paul +10.5. Paul Ryan +8. Ted Cruz +15.4
From those numbers above it is clear that the Democrats are hoping that someone like Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee will win the primary. Of course many Republicans are drunk with power (and a bit of delusion) after the 2014 midterms where they made massive gains. They ignore the fact that most Democrats stayed at home during the last midterms at their own peril. The 2014 election saw the lowest turnout since World War II. Far from being a mandate for Republican policies or candidate, it was more a sign of disgust and apathy by people who chose to stay at home. But Democrats will need to solve the midterm apathy if they are to expand beyond just presidential wins and start winning back some Governor and state offices that cause gerrymandering concerns.
Georgia and other states in the South may still be red, but they are far more purplish in presidential election years and the trend toward eventually turning bluer is hard to ignore. Unlike other parts of the country where a Republican can get elected as Governor in Wisconsin or New Jersey for example, once Georgia turn blue possibly around 2020 if not sooner, it will likely not turn Georgia red ever again. Once Democrats become the majority in Georgia and Texas and solve midterm apathy problems, it will be very hard for a republican like Nathan Deal to become Governor again. The elation over the 2014 midterm election may prove to be a very ephemeral celebration.
Congressional job approval is also not much higher than bedbugs. The Republican controlled Congress has a positive approval rate of only 11% which is actually a slight improvement on 2014 when it sank to 7%.So while they mock Obama’s approval rate they best look in the mirror. Now they they control the House and the Senate the country will already be extremely hesitant to allow them to also control the Oval Office as well. They are going to suffer from the same backlash in 2016 as the Senate Democrats felt in 2014. It is much easier to criticize than actually lead and I doubt much of import will get done these next two years.
How ironic that Brian Kemp in his attempt to gain more publicity for the Georgia primary may have given the best gift yet to Hillary Clinton. Maybe Hillary should send Mr. Kemp a signed copy of God, Guns, Grits and Gravy and simply say Thanks! I know Mike Huckabee certainly will.