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Is it already 2016?

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KauffmanBy Jacob Kauffman

Political Columnist

Some people just can’t help themselves when it comes to talking about the next presidential election. Doesn’t matter which one either. Or what’s going on in the country. I try to tell myself I’m not one of them. But then there’s this column about Arkansas’s place in 2016.


But maybe Arkansans should be given a little leeway this time around. We have the fortune, or misfortune, of having two erstwhile Arkansans invoked in talks of the White House. Both have inhabited the Governor’s Mansion, packed-up and made new homes in east coast states, and don’t mind using the idea of Arkansas to aid in selling a wholesome persona. I’m of course talking about Hillary and Huckabee.
None of this means Arkansas’s slim six Electoral College votes will add up to a priority for either campaign. It’s just not the biggest prize out there. It wouldn’t do much good for Hillary Clinton to make a bid for the state even if Arkansas held 16 Electoral College votes. Take a look at the partisan make-up of the Legislature, governor’s office, and who sits in Congress and you’ll get a good idea how fertile Arkansas is for Democrats.
But it does make the average Arkansan, Arkansawyer, and Arkie perk up a bit. People across the state got a little excited not too long back when Bill came to lift the boats of Mark Pryor and Mike Ross. Stops in Conway and Fort Smith might have done something but it didn’t stop a landslide. Of course Hillary is not Bill and opinions about Ross and Pryor are not the same as thoughts about Hillary.
The until-recently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already entered the fray. Depending on who you talk to she’s been running for president, or as close as she could get to it, ever since meeting Bill.
The preacher turned politician Mike Huckabee has been courting 2016 ambitions for quite a spell as well. The state’s other son from Hope has been plying his trade on television and radio airwaves in-between his bids to move to Washington D.C. Like Clinton, Huckabee has amassed considerable wealth – to widely varying degrees – since departing the Natural State.
Huckabee is making an announcement in Hope on May 5th. It’s a big mystery, he can’t say it yet. The pageantry of the super-early presidential race can be like that. Oh, and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin has already said he will join on as an advisor to the former governor. As an aside, Huckabee this pre-campaign has come out as against the Common Core national education standards. Lt. Governor Griffin is steering a special task force to study the issue.
Clinton is the pre-ordained Democratic nominee. Though there will be some opposition from her left. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has come out swinging recently. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been stumping beyond the Granite State and on cable television for months. Clinton simply doesn’t align with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on issues like Wall Street reform, wage inequality, and warfare in the Middle East.
If Huckabee has a shot he’ll need to get some votes early in Iowa and New Hampshire. And he’s in a competitive field. Even his particular niche in the evangelical world and cultural conservatism places him in a crowd.
Candidates are entering the race. There’s some appropriateness to looking at the circus of presidential politics this early. But analysis from the punditry class, myself included, doesn’t mean much right now. If it ever does. Anything could happen by 2016. If you look at the news and not the tabloidization of the political horse race there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world that could have some political ramifications at home. But for now, if you’re looking forward to the politics and its shine on Arkansas, it’s all starting to start.

Jacob Kauffman has reported on the state legislature since 2013 and primarily covers Arkansas politics for KUAR Public Radio in Little Rock. His work has appeared on NPR, PBS News Hour, as well as a variety of state publications. He is also a regular panelist on AETN’s Arkansas Week and writes an exclusive weekly column for The Nashville News.