early and often

What Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin’s TV Shows Reveal About Their Presidential Plans

Has anybody been watching Mike Huckabee’s daytime show on Fox? No? It’s a daily syndicated talk show airing on major Fox affiliates across the country. Huckabee’s guests and co-hosts include former The Price Is Right host Bob Barker, radio and television star Wendy Williams, and Intel fave Bethenny Frankel. It’s a vaguely watchable combination of down-home humor, daytime infomercial, and light moral lecturing that is sure to keep Huckabee in the public eye until he decides whether to kick off a presidential campaign next year.

Here’s the kind of programming Huckabee is peddling. Huckabee playing “Johnny B. Goode” with Wayne Newton:

For more where that came from, watch Huckabee with Ron Clarke from Hee Haw and Huckabee on whether or not your spouse’s Facebook friends are a threat. You get the picture. It’s Tyra without the sass but with some of the same weight issues.

Politicians have been encroaching on mainstream TV for decades, from Nixon on Laugh-In to Clinton on Arsenio to Obama on The View. But we’ve reached a point where participating in the 24-hour news and entertainment cycle is not only a priority for potential candidates — it’s a near requirement. Huckabee, for example, won a certain stamina-boosting cachet when he convinced Chuck Norris to be his wingman.

But is Huck’s show really helping his political prospects? Is watching a self-defense tutorial with a Real Housewife of New York City really going to bolster the presidential credentials of a man ranked as a front-runner by a CNN poll earlier this year?

Watching the clips above, it’s clear that the answer is no. Huckabee must be after something other than a real shot at the White House in the coming election season. And who can blame him? A successful talk show not only pays better than the presidency — it also has better hours and, as crazy as it sounds, a potentially longer shelf life. The timing also doesn’t add up. If Huck’s show, currently on a trial run, gets picked up for regular distribution, it would kick into high gear just before he would have to begin plotting his political campaign in earnest.

But that doesn’t mean that all potential candidates who have television shows should be counted out. For all her highly publicized missteps with the mainstream media, Sarah Palin has made the canniest maneuver of any of the prospective Republican candidates thus far with her TLC show, Alaska. Debuting on November 14, her show aims to be educational, at least semi-serious, patriotic, and charming — highlighting Palin’s best assets while shoring up her weak areas. Alaska is designed to give her just the right amount of exposure without descending into tawdry territory — despite a guest appearance by Kate Gosselin. (Also in the news today: Palin’s on-camera eye-rolling.) In other words, it’s supposed to be scripted without seeming, well, Huckstery. And that’s just what a GOP candidate — or any modern-day American politician, for that matter — is going to need.

What Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin’s TV Shows Reveal About Their Presidential Plans