WASHINGTON -- While there is considerable yearning among the political press for the 2012 Republican primary to begin in earnest, one of the major potential candidates said Wednesday that he's in no rush.
"I think it is stupid to get in too early," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told a small group of reporters who stayed to talk after a briefing organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
Huckabee, who gained national attention -- and later, a contract with Fox News -- after winning the Iowa Republican presidential primary in 2008, said he thought President Barack Obama's incumbency would be difficult to overcome.
"He has got a clean shot all the way to November, doesn't have to spend hardly anything. He gets to run around being president flying around on Air Force One for the first nine months of 2012 ... making speeches, not even saying anything political, giving grants away, appointing people to things," Huckabee said of Obama. "I've been an incumbent governor. It is a sweet gig, let me tell you. It is a whole lot better if you've got the job then if you just want to knock the guy out who has it."
The structure of the GOP primary system also encouraged delay, Huckabee said, noting that it is no longer stacked with winner-take-all-delegates states. Some traditionally Democratic enclaves will now require candidates to compete, making a longer nomination fight more likely.
"This could be a protracted event," Huckabee said. "How can you sustain this thing for a long period of time?" Longer campaigns also require more funds to support them, the former governor observed, and money is tougher to come by in a broader field of candidates.
And Huckabee doesn't seem to think he needs to expose himself to as much attention as possible. "It doesn't make sense unless you are so poorly known that you have to go out and wave your arms in front of everybody else and say, 'Look at me, I'm here.' I'm in a very different position than I was four years ago," he said.
Indeed, whereas in 2008 Huckabee jumped into the fray early, he is now a known quantity with Fox's megaphone to conservatives at his disposal. He ranks at or near the top of most public opinion polls on 2012 GOP contenders.
There are disadvantages, however, to being better known, Huckabee said. "The downside is, I'm doing three commentaries a day on 600 radio stations and a week of television every week. So I say a lot of stuff," he quipped. "I'm sure somebody is writing it all down."