CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Return of the Huck

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) is back in town again for his latest high-profile speech to a Washington, D.C., conservative group, the latest sign he’s gearing up for a potential 2016 presidential run.

Huckabee will keynote the Susan B. Anthony List’s annual gala Wednesday night, returning to the Beltway less than a week after addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The former White House aspirant has been everywhere since ending his radio show, hitting the early-voting states and traveling across the country to meet with potential campaign donors. He was in D.C. for the Republican National Committee’s winter meetings in late January, and will be back to keynote a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee in a few weeks. 

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Top advisors make it clear he’s serious about a run this time around after toying with the idea four years ago.

“He’s more serious this time. He sees the environment to be better for him this time than in 2012,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Huckabee’s daughter and a senior strategist from his first presidential campaign, told The Hill earlier this week. “It just seems so right for a lot of different reasons. I think there is a bigger opportunity this time around, and he’s very, very seriously considering a run.”

If he runs, Huckabee starts off in a strong position — he’s led a number of recent 2016 GOP polls, nationally as well as in early-voting Iowa and South Carolina. But the socially conservative former governor will have to contend with an increasingly libertarian-leaning party base, and defend a record that includes some tax increases and past support for Common Core.

Fundraising will also be a big factor in Huckabee’s decision-making.

“I won’t be jumping into a pool that has no water. It’s a hard fall to the concrete,” he told The Hill at CPAC.

 

IN THE STATES 

AZ-GOV (BREWER): Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced Wednesday she will not seek a third term in office, ending persistent speculation that she might go to court to challenge a provision in the state constitution that says the governor is limited to two terms, even if the term includes “any part of a term served.”

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

AK-SEN (BEGICH): The fiscally conservative Club for Growth has endorsed Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (R), giving him some major conservative cred and a financial shot in the arm against Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller (R), whom the Club endorsed in his first campaign. The group, which often targets establishment Republicans, is on the same side of the establishment this time as they look to unite around Sullivan so he can take out Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). 

CO-SEN (UDALL): The Republican National Committee is investing heavily in Colorado in part to prepare for the Senate race there, which became more competitive for the party with top-tier recruit Rep. Cory Gardner’s (R-Colo.) entry into the race. According to The Associated Press, the RNC is adding 11 field workers, a director of Hispanic outreach and two additional Hispanic field workers, as well as opening 12 field offices statewide, in hopes of boosting their chances at toppling Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) this fall.

OK-SEN (OPEN): Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has endorsed Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) in his Senate primary against Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, declaring in a Facebook post that he’s the right candidate to fill retiring Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) shoes and that he’ll “bring to D.C. the integrity and moral compass” he acquired through his faith. The endorsement is an early indication Shannon is winning the favor of grassroots conservatives, who were left without a clear option when Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) opted out of the race.

NE-SEN (OPEN): A new GOP survey conducted by Breitbart News and The Polling Company shows former Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn posting an 11-point lead over Midland University President Ben Sasse in the Senate Republican primary there. That’s a wider lead than a poll out in February, which showed Osborn ahead by about a point. The GOP candidates faced off in a debate on Tuesday night during which Obama’s foreign policy was a central focus of attacks.

MT-SEN (WALSH): Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) picked Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) at least 12 days before announcing his choice, according to The Associated Press. Bullock’s office has long denied that he made up his mind until after Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was officially confirmed as ambassador to China, though it was long assumed that he would pick Walsh, his lieutenant governor and establishment Democrats’ preferred choice for the race. Walsh faces an uphill race against Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) this fall.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

CA-4 (MCCLINTOCK): FreedomWorks has endorsed Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) for his reelection. McClintock doesn’t have any challengers from either party after a Democrat suspended her campaign in the heavily Republican district last month.

CA-52 (PETERS): The League of Conservation Voters endorsed Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) for reelection in his tough battle against former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio (R). The move is no surprise — the group spent heavily for him in 2012 and he’d already hinted that he expected their support.

MI-3 (AMASH): Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-Mich.) primary challenger Brian Ellis is up with his first ad, attacking him on abortion and accusing him of voting to "allow gender selection abortions to continue."

NC-12 (OPEN): North Carolina state Rep. Alma Adams’s (D) campaign released a poll showing her leading a crowded Democratic field with 26 percent support, with North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham (D) in second place, earning 19 percent support. The race will head to a runoff if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote in the May primary to replace former Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.).

UT-4 (OPEN): The Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R) in her bid to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah). Love, the party's 2012 nominee, is the front-runner for the GOP nomination in a district that’s all but certain to be won by a Republican in the fall.

WV-3 (RAHALL): Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a top Republican target in a state that Obama lost by more than 25 points in 2012, told The Hill that he’s aware his GOP opponent will try to tie him to the unpopular president, but he’s not worried. That’s because he sees himself about as far from President Obama as a Democrat can get. “I probably have supported George Bush more than I have Barack Obama,” Rahall said. “Am I going to switch parties because of that? No. I’m a Democrat, born a Democrat, am a Democrat and will die a Democrat.”

 

2016 WATCH

PAUL TO PITCH PRIVACY AT BERKELEY: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is considering a run for president in 2016, will address students at the University of California, Berkeley next week about privacy and domestic spying. Paul’s father drew significant support 

KASICH OUT OF 2016 CALCULUS: Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) told a local news station that he’s “just not interested” in running for president. He’s been named a potential GOP presidential contender, and came close to running in 2000, but ultimately dropped out after he struggled with fundraising. He’s been targeted by Democrats in his reelection fight because, despite his high approval ratings, Ohio’s purple tint makes it an attractive state for Democrats to play in.

 

JUST FOR FUN

Family Matters to Mitch McConnell. 

 

Please send tips and comments to Campaign Editor Jessica Taylor, jtaylor@thehill.com; and Campaign Staff Writers Cameron Joseph, cjoseph@thehill.com; and Alexandra Jaffe, ajaffe@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @JessicaTaylor @cam_joseph and @ajjaffe.   

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