Keeping the Fox candidate machine moving right on schedule, the network featured Fox News host Mike Huckabee twice today to lob softballs at him about his possible plans to run for president in 2016.
This week, Huckabee spawned a flurry of news reports about his interest in making a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, telling The Washington Post that he is considering a run due to an increase in support "from places where I never got it before."
For years, Fox has helped potential Republican political candidates on their payroll stay in the limelight and reach out to a conservative audience while weighing runs for office. And with a possible Huckabee presidential run in the headlines, Fox News seems eager to help build buzz around its employee.
Interviewing Huckabee on Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Tucker Carlson said that "the question everyone was asking this week" was whether Huckabee planned to run in 2016. Huckabee answered that he is "open" to the idea of a run, but that he has not yet made up his mind and is instead focused on the 2014 midterm elections and hoping the GOP can take over the Senate.
The segment allowed Huckabee plenty of room to try out lines that would fit comfortably in a stump speech.
Huckabee explained that he is "concerned about the country. I'm concerned about whether or not we're going to get back to the place where people get elected to govern, not just to scream. And I do think that we're falling apart as a country with debt and everything else."
Asked when he plans to make a decision, Huckabee offered that what happens in the next year will be a big influence, including "whether the mood of the country is moving toward wanting to have more polarization or more pragmatic governing. That's gonna be a big factor for me. Because I think it's imperative that we finally decide that we want to move the country forward."
During a subsequent appearance on America's News HQ, Huckabee walked a fine line in navigating House Majority Leader John Boehner's recent feud with Tea Party groups. Huckabee agreed with Boehner's frustration with the tactics of a small number of conservative groups while being sure to praise the Tea Party movement as "vital," "incredibly healthy" and "of immeasurable benefit to the country."
After spending a few minutes attacking the Affordable Care Act, Huckabee was prompted by anchor Uma Pemmaraju: "Is it true that you're seriously looking at making another run for the White House in 2016?" Huckabee again said that he was considering it, claiming that he "not trying to be coy or play the game" before unleashing more platitudes.
Rebuking President Obama as a former "absentee" legislator with no experience governing prior to becoming president, Huckabee proclaimed that "I do think that people who have governed are in a better position to lead the country," adding, "whether I'm the guy or somebody else, I'm confident that Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to try to get the ship righted."
At the end of both Fox segments today, the conversations shifted seamlessly from Huckabee discussing his possible 2016 run to trying to convince viewers to tune into his Saturday night Fox show.
Media Matters calculated that Fox donated about $54.7 million in free advertising in 2010 to the potential 2012 presidential candidates on their payroll (Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich). Thanks to his weekly show, Huckabee garnered nearly 48 hours of airtime on the network in 2010 while he mulled a run, amounting to roughly $31 million in free advertising.