American two-party politics is defined by coalitions that keep the Democrats and Republicans as functioning (or malfunctioning) parties able to gain the necessary votes to win elections. I’ve written before about the Republican Party retooling after their 2008 loss and efforts like RebuildtheParty.com to bring conservative ideas matched with an effective social media strategy.
The big missing piece to this puzzle is who the Republican leader will be in 2012 to win their party’s coalitions’ support and challenge the Obama presidency. The recent Republican Governor’s Association meeting featured several prominent party leaders that could vie for the next presidential nomination, including: Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty and Charlie Crist.
On the elliptical machine this morning, I saw former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speak about his new book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America, on C-Span.
It dawned on me that Huckabee understands what Sarah Palin doesn’t, and maybe others too: after the Obama election, it has become evident that a candidate needs to:
- Have a message that resonates with the different parts of party’s coalition
- Can mobilize a movement of grass roots supporters and forgo a top-down organizing model
- Understands the social web and can communicate and organize through that medium
Recalling the Republican primary campaign, Huckabee was positioned as the social conservative’s choice candidate. Maybe that was due to his own communication strategy and understanding the candidate field was without a social conservative leader. Or, maybe it was because the media and blogosphere labeled him that. Either way, Huckabee has emerged or is positioning himself as a candidate with Obama characteristics – unifying people, appealing to what people can agree on and not what divides them, communicating the message to all the important components of the party’s coalition.
Even when talking about abortion, Huckabee’s argument was not the typical pro-life argument but rather couched in a way that attempted to appeal to a moderate or liberal’s inclination to civil rights and human dignity. I’m sure he’ll continue that sort of “bridging” message going forward.
Most importantly, and what the other 2012 Republican presidential contenders don’t have to the same degree as Huckabee, is the online netroots.
Huckabee lasted in the Republican primary as long as he did because of his netroots. He inspired a large amount of people to advocate and mobilize on behalf of his candidacy. He blogged and Facebooked better than other candidates. Plus, a small bunch of his supporters started HucksArmy.com, a highly independent social network that inspired offline actions much like Obama’s mybarackobama.com.
Huckabee continues to communicate to those in Huck’s Army and keeping them top of mind moving away from 2008 and into 2012. Plus, he set up HuckPAC, to support candidates on issues he supports, has spot on FOX TV and ABC radio. His book doesn’t hurt either.
His message, plus his medium and his social networks are going to propel Huckabee to the top of the 2012 contender list. Let’s watch.