Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, IA.
Scott Olson—Getty Images
By Lily Rothman
May 5, 2015

At the launch of Mike Huckabee’s campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson listed this as one of Huckabee’s credentials: when Huckabee himself was the top politician in Arkansas, TIME named him one of the country’s best governors.

In one particular way, that 2005 list is an apt piece to cite. “Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is tickled by the rampant speculation that he will seek the presidency,” the story began. “Officially, he’s ‘keeping all options open,’ which is another way of saying he’s trying to figure out how much money he could raise.”

But, the article hinted, if he could raise the money he might go far:

Huckabee, 50, is a good Governor, not just for what he has done but also for who he has become, personally and politically. He is literally half the man he used to be, having lost 110 lbs. after learning in 2002 that he has diabetes and suffering chest pains a year later. He now exercises with martial regularity. More important, but less noted, has been Huckabee‘s political transformation. In his early years as Lieutenant Governor and then in the top job, he offered little more than anti-Clinton resentment and capering populism; in 1996 he warned of “environmental wackos who … want to tell us what kind of deodorant we can use.” Huckabee is now a mature, consensus-building conservative who earns praise from fellow Evangelicals and, occasionally, liberal Democrats.

Huckabee did end up running in the presidential election that followed that story, in 2008, but did not win his party’s nomination. This time around, he’s hoping for a different result.

Read the whole story, in the TIME archives: America’s 5 Best Governors

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