Media Analysis: Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump go anti-Reagan – choose celebrity over politics
May 16th, 2011
04:01 PM ET
12 years ago

Media Analysis: Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump go anti-Reagan – choose celebrity over politics

(CNN) - Mike Huckabee sat in his television studio in New York City Saturday night and announced he would not be running for president.

Instead, he'd continue hosting his weekly show and collecting a Fox News paycheck, playing bass guitar occasionally and making a few speeches around the country. After the live announcement on his TV show, a pre-taped message from Donald Trump aired, with the Donald saying, "a lot of people are very happy that he will not be running, especially other candidates."

Then, today it was Donald Trump's turn. While standing in front of TV critics and advertisers at the NBC Upfront, Trump revealed he would not be running for President either (but he will be back with a fifth season of "Celebrity Apprentice"!) and instead would remain in "the private sector." Both Huckabee and Trump had stirred up considerable interest and support in polls, but chose to avoid the political spotlight to retain a celebrity one.

One of the giants of the Republican party is Ronald Reagan, who left a career in Hollywood for one in public service. But that was a different time – in Huckabee and Trump we see a new path, one heavy in policy but devoid of the burden of political office.

It's very likely Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump want to be president.
But it's clear they don't want to go through what will be one of the most rigorous primary campaigns against a wide open field, and if successful there, a general election bid against the president who just answered "Can you find and kill Osama bin Laden?" with "Yes We Can." While there is no clear frontrunner, those who had at one time aspired to run are pulling back, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently. But Huckabee and Trump saw the lead just one month ago – in an April CNN poll, they were tied for first among prospective GOP candidates.

It's easier to see why Trump dropped out. While gaining momentum based on tough talk aimed at China and questions about President Obama's birth certificate, Trump imploded after his tough talk got a little NSFW and the birth certificate surfaced. So he remains a celebrity, hosting a popular reality TV show and dropping f-bombs as much as he likes. It's important to note NBC wasn't hinging the future plans of the "Celebrity Apprentice" on Trump's return – they had already announced it would come back, with NBC's Bob Greenblatt somewhat ironically saying of Trump's presidential aspirations, "Nothing would make me happier to see somebody reach that dream."

Huckabee has the politician pedigree that Trump doesn't. He made a strong presidential run in 2008 – but that was before his Fox News show "Huckabee" and the money and financial benefits of fame. With Glenn Beck leaving Fox News in the next few weeks, the cable network has a hole at 5 p.m. ET that Huckabee could potentially fill. The promotion from a weekend show to a weekday slot would be a big move, and with it, the ability to influence the 2012 race in ways he may not have been able to if he was a runner-up in the GOP sweepstakes.

There's another potential candidate currently wrestling with the allure of political power versus the allure of the celebrity life. Sarah Palin was the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, but spoke to an entirely new audience last fall as the star of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on TLC, a reality show about her family that provided a mix of patriotic messages and the standard reality TV fare. Palin has yet to decide – she'll have to soon, as she too is under Fox News contract – but many are speculating Palin will stick with TV (and leave her political forays to Twitter and Facebook).

While media members may find a Trump, Palin or even Huckabee run for the White House entertaining and ratings-boostingly convenient, the absence of these candidates help prove the power of the media and television even more.

Mike Huckabee doesn't want to expend the energy, money and time to potentially fall short of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead, he'll comment on the race from the sidelines, in a culture where high profile sideline-commenting can be both lucrative and amazingly influential.

The days of Ronald Reagan, and giving up the celebrity spotlight for public service are diminishing. In fact, Huckabee took a recent mild shot at Reagan's policies.

Instead, we have the inverse-Reagan. It's so much easier (and more fun, and more financially beneficial) for Donald Trump to decide who gets hired and fired, instead of facing the American boardroom himself.

Filed under: 2012 • Donald Trump • Mike Huckabee • Ronald Reagan
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Huckabee's show is politically oriented. Trump's show is not.
    You are comparing apples to oranges. Yeah, both are fruit. That's it.

    May 16, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  2. FM

    I fully support them. We do what suits us best. If we force ourselves something which doesn't, the results are severe disgusting, like what the lady in Alaska did in 2008 Presidential battle!

    May 16, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country (the real deal)

    Given the dire straits this country is in and the hate vitriol from the left, especially the unions, who wants the job? Hard choices need to be made if we are to survive. After decades of living way beyond our means, we now have to decide what we can live without. Can we maintain a great welfare society and still be a super power? Can we continue to let 50% of the people not pay income taxes? Should we just steal everything from the nasty rich people and give it to the people who produce nothing in our society, except more demands for more of everything?

    Will we become theold Soviet Union or will be continue to be a great democratic Republic?

    May 16, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Randy, San Francisco

    The analysis is a perfect example of over thinking. Perhaps Trump and Huckabee decided, regardless of stated reasons, they weren't ready or qualified to be president.

    May 16, 2011 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Perry Lowe

    To bad, to sad that someone as bad as Donald isn't staying in the race. The country really needs more laughs!

    May 16, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  6. Frank

    Well, the entertainment value has just dropped in the Republican presidential hopeful sweepstakes. Huckabee at least had some decency, though it seemed lately to be eroding, as had McCain's in '08. I'm sure the Koch brothers aren't happy with him since he called one of their front groups the "Club for Greed" (rather than "Growth"). Those pardons of serial killers would be a bit difficult to explain away as well.

    Trump provided us with a rare buffoon. The oleaginous Barbour was no great loss.

    Newt will have a hard time explaining how his wives haven't lasted beyond 20 years and/or a serious illness.

    Sarah Palin wouldn't be able to handle any interviews more difficult than the unctuous adulation of Greta van Sustern.

    Tim Pawlenty won't be trusted by the Kochs thanks to his brief Global Warming heresy.

    His fellow Gopher's recent foray into Iowa shows that Michelle Bachman is willing to lie about her history as impressively as does Palin. We're never sure if it's her talking, or if she hasn't taken her meds.

    Mitch Daniela will get to explain why he dumped his first wife for his second, then dumped her and returned to #1.

    That leaves Mitt Romney, I think, who has apostasy on both health care and in his choice of denominations: If you've never heard the Babdist preachers go on about the boys in suits on bicycles you ain't heard nothing yet.

    May 16, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. The Clear Thinking Independent Voter

    Trump is like Palin; he is a bully and a quiter.

    He talks a lot of smack but when challenged to put up or shut up – something the "Yes" men around him NEVER force him to do – he folds like a punk from the neighborhood.

    After declaring bankruptcy four times, this speculator got lucky in real estate and using borrowed money has finally accumulated "house money" Mind you, this is after blowing the approximately $150M his DADDY TRUMP gave him to get started. Talk about a silver spoon in your mouth from jump street.

    Trump has ZERO leadership skills. He has great DICTATOR skills. Unfortunately for him, this is the USA, not the United States of Trump.

    May 16, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  8. Liz the First

    Is anyone surprised that trump's latest 'run for president' was nothing more than the latest in a long line of publicity stunts? when will the media learn not to let him play them like cheap violins?

    May 16, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Huckabee went from preacher, politian, author, faux news and to the bank all for the love of money. Faux news has done a good inside job on the Republican party making them all greedy pigs instead of politicians.

    May 16, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. they call me "tater salad"

    Beck didn't LEAVE Faux Noise, HE WAS FIRED!!!!!!! Get your facts straight CNN, You guy's are turning into Fox lite, WTF?

    May 16, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. once upon a horse

    Both Huckabee and Trump's politcal trains started to crash when they came out with LIES about President Obama, Huck tried to walk his back and Trump never even admited his were untrue. We NEVER found out if Trump even had folks in Hawaii looking for the birth certificate, then he claims it wasn't there and has YET to make amends for the outright lie. Huckabee I guess mis-spoke about President Obama's growing up in Kenya. Problem is that you have people in this country that choose to believe such drivel just becasue they don't like Obama rahter than asking for facts. Trump i don't think was ever going to run, Huckabee maybe but in his case why take the paycut and get more headaches.

    May 16, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Swordfish

    The American people learned today that reality show star and reputed “billionaire” Donald Trump has decided not to seek the office of President of the United States. It might seem abrupt until we learned that NBC, the network that carries his show “Celebrity Apprentice,” has decided to renew the show for another season.
    In his unacceptance letter issued to the media, “The Donald” said he would have won if he chose to throw his hat into the ring but that he is not quite ready to leave the private sector. Many have pointed to the fact that political candidates would need to reveal personal financial information in order to qualify for the race, something Trump has always been cagey about.
    Whatever the reason for not running, we do know the reason he was flirting with running: TV ratings. Trump is very happy to be a TV celebrity and he knows that celebrity can be taken away without strong TV ratings, so his presidential run was an excellent vessel to keep the media train chugging along. But all the “birther” talk and political stumping may have backfired as a recently broadcast episode of Celebrity Apprentice bombed in the ratings.
    The message is clear Mr. Trump: we like you as the jerk on our TVs, not as the jerk in the Oval Office; we’ve already had plenty of those, thank you. At least the other guys didn’t let the cat out of the bag about themselves until they were firmly seated at the presidential desk and already pocketed a fistful of presidential pens.
    But we can all be assured of one thing: You will be back, like a bewigged tan-in-the-can zombie you will come back to haunt us again and again slowly eating our brain cells with either your reality show poop or your faux political antics. And we will watch, why? Because just like your personal friend, shock jock Howard Stern, we want to hear what you have to say next.

    May 16, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  13. Russ

    Since they wouldn't let us rale on Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (what the hell kind of name is that anyway) in his article I'll do it here. Plain and simple: IF BUSH HAD BEEN A ONE TERM PRESIDENT WE WOULDN'T BE IN THIS SINKING SHIP IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!

    May 16, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  14. OneMoreTime

    The best explanation for all of these "drop outs" is The Apprentice theme song:
    "Money, Money, Money"! Good Riddance, three down, many more to go.

    May 16, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Always go with the facts

    "Democrat Class Warfare – Destroying the economy, destroying the country (the real deal)" you are an idiot with nothing to

    contribute to the national discourse but your stupid and ignorant comments which have no basis in facts. forget the fact

    that GW managed to explode the national debt even with inheriting a thriving economy and increased tax revenue.

    squandered trillions of dollars in wars not needed, unfunded tax cuts and prescription drug programs which all lead to a

    great recession with the whole country and world almost on brink of a total collapse. Then a democrat gets in white house

    and all u guys do is attack and spread lies, hate and mistruths about what he is doing and his intentions. The facts are

    gonna be there wether u right wing lunatics accept it or not. You cannot call Obama a failure when u inherit a collapsing

    economy with banks and businesses failing everyday, loosing 750k jobs a month and a detoriating state of affairs and

    despite unheard of opposition from the right and the racists ones save the economy from depression, save american auto

    makers and millions of jobs, save states from massive lay offs of teachers cops, fire fighters and other essential services

    (GOP governors begged for the money accepted it willingly until its time to bash the fed govt) and now the economy is

    adding 200k+ jobs a month and businesses are profitable again. But your lunatic fringe kind will love to ignore the facts and

    just go with the sound bites and stupid rethoric. Obama is "bankcrupting" america forget the fact that due to recession he

    inherited there is a huge decrease in tax revenue, and all the neccesary steps he needed to take to stop a global

    depression. also forget the fact too that GW insituted the first $850b bailouts and i never heard a whimp from u right wing

    loons u sure didnt complain then. makes rest of us sane people not pay guys like that any attention cos we know either u

    are incredibly stupid or ur seriuosly misinformed.

    May 16, 2011 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |