Huckabee to reveal ’12 plans on Fox show

— Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will announce whether he will take the first steps to enter the 2012 presidential race on his program on the Fox News cable television channel today.

“Will he or won’t he make a White House run? The Gov gives his answer on Huckabee!” teased a note posted Friday on the show’s website.

The program’s executive producer, Woody Fraser, saidin a statement that Huckabee “will announce tomorrow night on his program whether or not he intends to explore a presidential bid. He has not told anyone at FOXNews Channel his decision.”

Huckabee, 55, also urged followers on Twitter to watch his media appearances on Fox News programs over the weekend. He has said he would decide this summer whether to seek the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year.

His program runs at 7 p.m.Central time.

In a Friday afternoon appearance on the Fox News Channel, Huckabee offered no further clues as to the decision and said not to trust the hunches of “people that will act like that they know all about it, and they don’t.”

“I have not even communicated with members of all my family until this afternoon,” he told Neil Cavuto.

Huckabee on Friday night did little to dissuade those who think he’s choosing his media career over the campaign trail, jokingly telling fellow Fox host Bill O’Reilly, “I would love to get my ratings to half of what yours are, and if I make this announcement tomorrow, I’ll be well on my way.”

Last week, several news organizations reported that Fox News Channel executives were pressuring Huckabee to make a decision, but he denied those reports.

Fox News Channel has been concerned about the legal complications of having presidential candidates on its payroll. Earlier, the network suspended the contracts of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Both are now running for president.

It is unclear whether any federal rules would prohibit Huckabee from making a campaign-related announcement on his show. But if the decision is that he is running, he could announce that tonight’s show is his last.

After beginning a run for his party’s 2008 nomination as a little-known underdog, Huckabee rode strong support from religious and social conservatives to win that year’s Republican Iowa caucuses and emerge as a serious contender. Though he lost the nomination to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, he parlayed his support into the Huckabee show on Fox News.

Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who headed Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, said he spoke with him a week ago to review his former boss’s potential to win support from activists in early caucus and primary states and to raise money for another campaign.

Rollins said he told Huckabee to call him back once he’d made a decision about whether he would run. “I’ve had no contact and no connection with him since,” Rollins said, which leads him to expect that Huckabee will pass on running again.

If he does run, Rollins said,“There’s plenty of support out there for him, and unlike four years ago he’s a front-runner.”

Rollins said Huckabee seemed to be leaning toward running two weeks ago but then appeared less sure in their most recent conversation eight days ago.

“I think over the last couple years, he’s developed a lifestyle he likes,” Rollins said. “He’s making money, publishing books; he has his show. I didn’t [get] the sense that every day he got up in the mirror and said, ‘There’s the next president of the United States.’ Unless you really have the fire in your gut, unless you really want to get up every day and do it, don’t do it.”

Since losing the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Huckabee has fashioned a lucrative post-political career as a book writer, speaker and a contributor for Fox News, where he makes about $500,000 a year in a contract that goesthrough 2012.

On Thursday, he announced another venture: a new educational company, Learn Our History, that will produce animated films designed to “combat major shortcomings in current methods of teaching American history,” according to the news release.

Huckabee had hinted months ago that he was reluctant to give up his media empire, saying in a February interview: “The day I say, ‘I’m running,’ that’s the day I don’t have an income.”

Despite Huckabee’s doubts, Rollins said he was “as shocked as anyone” when he heard that the former governor would be announcing his decision today.

“He had a great opportunity to win this thing,” Rollins added, noting Huckabee’s appeal to Tea Party supporters and Christian conservatives. “He’s a very credible candidate, a very effective candidate. It was all there. It could have happened. But you can’t make a campaign without a candidate.”

Among other Republicans, Gingrich officially announced his candidacy earlier this week, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas did the same Friday.

Information for this article was contributed by Lisa Lerer of Bloomberg News; by Matea Gold, Mark Z. Barabak and Michael A. Memoli of the Tribune Washington Bureau; by Michael D. Shear of The New York Times; and by Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press.

Front Section, Pages 3 on 05/14/2011