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Going into the debate, Mike Huckabee didn’t have much to lose, but a whole lot to gain. The former Arkansas governor defines his platform through a fixed moral lens. Fairness and balance are key qualities that he wishes to implement in each of his policies. While his efforts to create a more moral government can be seen as ambitious, it doesn’t push him anywhere near competitive poll numbers.
When asked what his biggest weakness was, Huckabee answered, “If I have a weakness, it’s that I try to live by the rules.” His efforts to play fair are commendable, but unfortunately aren’t the key to winning in this sort of playing field. This tendency to live by the rules were clear throughout the debate as Huckabee quickly faded into the background.
The high volume of Republican personalities on stage makes it hard for nice guys like him to stand out. In this case, louder voices get heard. Characters such as Donald Trump, John Kasich and Marco Rubio manage to overwhelm the floor as Huckabee stands silently at his podium waiting for his turn to talk. While it’s clear that he has manners, it didn’t remind viewers that he was actually there.
Despite fading into the background for most the debate, Huckabee delivered strong responses in the times that he spoke. He talked passionately about his intentions for America and did a good job in reassuring supporters of his promise to make the country more fair. If he were more aggressive in pushing these ideals, his success in the debate would’ve be better.
By the end of the debate, the amount of times Huckabee spoke could probably be counted on one hand. He never dared interrupt his fellow candidates and never spoke unless the moderator asked him a question. He is more of a cub than a lion in this case. The strongest take he had was essentially an endorsement for another candidate on the floor in Trump.
“Donald Trump would be a better president every day of the week and twice on Sunday than Hillary,” said Huckabee late in the debate. It was a lighter moment when he referenced the fact that he was wearing a Trump-brand tie, but in terms of policy talk, the former Arkansas governor wasn’t able to bring his points back to the main stage as strongly as his contemporaries like Rubio.
He failed to take on the stronger candidates of the debate and seemed unwilling to challenge any of his competitors on key issues. As a candidate, Huckabee plays by the rules well, but this isn’t the sort of tactic that wins in battles as cut-throat as this one.