Caldwell

Patrick Caldwell

Reporter

Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow his tweets at @patcaldwell.

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Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered all things domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter at @patcaldwell.

The Real Reason Why Mike Huckabee Is Toying With a 2016 Run

| Mon Dec. 23, 2013 11:43 AM EST

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas turned presidential aspirant, has been largely inconsequential in Republican politics since he shuttered his 2008 campaign. Unlike the Sarah Palins and Jim DeMints of the Tea Party wing, Huckabee has played a small role in elevating party usurpers like senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The Christian Crusader has been mostly absent from politics, instead favoring punditry through cable news—a far more lucrative venture. As of 2011, Huckabee was earning half a million dollars a year from his show on Fox News, on top of extra income from his recently shuttered radio show and other paid appearances.

But being the runner-up of a now-distant presidential primary doesn't carry much political cache. So Huckabee has begun a concerted media effort to drum up interest in will-he-or-won't-he speculation about another presidential bid in 2016. First came a New York Times interview two weeks ago. "I’m keeping the door open," he told the paper. "I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me." Huckabee followed that up with an appearance on Fox News Sunday this past weekend, where he again played coy while highlighting his potential interest in a campaign. "I would say maybe at this point it is 50-50, but I don't know," Huckabee said.

First things first: A successful repeat of Huckabee's 2008 bid seems unlikely. The last time Huckabee successfully ran for public office was his gubernatorial reelection bid in 2002—not exactly material for a robust presidential campaign come 2016. Even if Huckabee chose to run once again, it's hard to imagine him carving out a space in the Republican 2016 primary. In 2008, he became the banner carrier for the religious right. Rick Santorum claimed that mantle in 2012 and appears poised to resume the crusade next time around. If Republican primary voters don't want a fresh face like Cruz, Paul, or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), it's likely they'll settle on Santorum, rather than Huckabee, as the next-in-line candidate.

So why the sudden interest? Well, as that Times article from earlier this month noted, Huckabee feels like he hasn't received his due for finishing second in the 2008 primary behind Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Part of that must be vanity, but calling attention to his standing in 2008 is also practical. Huckabee's political relevance is what got him his show on Fox. Prior to entering politics, Huckabee worked as a pastor, a solid life but hardly the one-percent dream he's living now. Thanks to that Fox News income, Huckabee lives in a $3 million Florida beach home. Huckabee acknowledged that it'd be tough to relinquish that lavish lifestyle when pushed in the Times interview. "And it’s why I’m not in a big hurry to do anything," he said. There's no better way to lock down that steady income than to rev up the media hype machine for another round of speculation about future presidential campaigns.

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The Budget Impasse Is Over, But House Republicans Plan More Economic Brinksmanship

| Mon Dec. 16, 2013 11:42 AM EST

So much for a budget détente. Less than a week after he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) reached a deal on a federal budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015—a remarkable feat of comity and a marked shift from congress' recent habit of putting off deals to the last possible second—Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is gearing up for the next fiscal stalemate.

In a Sunday television appearance, Ryan stressed that he wants concessions from Democrats in exchange for raising the debt ceiling to prevent the US government from defaulting on its borrowing this spring. "We as a caucus—along with our Senate counterparts—are going to meet and discuss what it is we’re going to want out of the debt limit," Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said on Fox News. “We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we’re going to accomplish out of this debt-limit fight.”

In recent years, House Republicans have embraced economic brinksmanship as a negotiating tool and begun using once-routine debt-ceiling adjustments to try to advance their cost-cutting agenda. They took the nation to the edge of default in 2011, extracting budget cuts in exchange from Democrats. Another debt-ceiling fight in October of this year shut down the federal government—and sent Republican approval ratings plummeting. Republicans relented before the debt ceiling was actually breached, but the battle did lasting damage to the party and the economy. It seems unlikely that Ryan and his House Republican colleagues would push the nation so close to the brink again, given the political toll past fights have taken.

But his comments are an indicative PR move. Ryan clearly thinks of himself as a future presidential contender. His ability to reach a budget deal boosts his resume, an example he can now cite when questioned about his ability to foster bipartisan deals to accomplish his goals. But it cost Ryan his wonder-boy status among the party's right flank. Ryan's decision to trade sequestration cuts, a mandatory cap on discretionary spending revered by the right, for future savings angered conservatives. Pretty much every major tea party group—Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks, etc.—denounced the plan as a sellout to Democrats.

Ryan's colleagues were unusually frank in rebutting those groups last week. "Frankly, I think they're misleading their followers," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. "I think they're pushing our members in places they don't want to be. And, frankly, I just think they've lost all credibility." Ryan wasn't quite as outspoken about his differences with the party's conservative wing. "I'd prefer to keep these conversation within our family," he said on Meet the Press this weekend. Republicans, like him, who want to someday run for higher office still need to bow down before the tea party's dogma of obstinacy. Assuring a fight over the debt ceiling could help Ryan return to those groups' good graces.

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