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Mike Huckabee: Serious Competition for Sarah Palin in 2012

3 years ago
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Sarah Palin may have met her political match in Mike Huckabee.

Both have been criss-crossing the country on book tours. Both hold degrees in communication. Both hunt and fish. Both use various media to hit their target audiences.

But while Palin often generates anger, Huckabee takes the Will Rogers road. He has an aw-shucks demeanor, freely cracking jokes, shaking hands and chatting with the media while Palin shuns reporters.

Already road-tested by a 2008 White House run, Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister, may just be the strongest GOP candidate to take on Palin in a primary and President Barack Obama in a general election.
Huckabee, so far, ranks high in favorability polls.
A Quinnipac poll on Nov. 22 showed Huckabee in a statistical dead heat with Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
In a Marist College poll on Nov. 24, Huckabee and Palin were virtually tied in popularity among Republicans who were not college graduates. But Huckabee pulled ahead significantly -- 18 percent to Palin's 9 percent -- among respondents with college degrees. Huckabee came in second to Romney, who polled on top with 25 percent, among college-educated Republicans.
The high ratings mirror Huckabee's numbers when he was governor. According to the yearly Arkansas Poll, Huckabee only dipped below 50 percent once from 1999 to 2006. In 2003, he hit a 47 percent approval rating, but the next year had 58 percent.
"He compares favorably to his leading competitors at the moment," says Janine Parry, director of the Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas. "His unfavorable numbers are significantly lower, he's penetrated the mainstream culture without becoming clownish, and he's demonstrated a willingness – even eagerness – to be a practical, truly bipartisan leader. In this environment and in a general election at least, those seem like substantial assets."
Huckabee's career from Southern Baptist minister to politician is one of determination and ambition. The lesson for his opponents: He takes chances and he doesn't give up easily.
From 1989 to 1991, Huckabee served as the youngest-ever elected president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. While well-known in church circles, Huckabee was a complete unknown in the political arena. But yet he took on a political legend, Sen. Dale Bumpers, for the U.S. Senate in 1992. He lost, but he received 40 percent of the vote.
In 1993, then-GOP State Chairman Asa Hutchinson urged Huckabee to run in a special election for lieutenant governor after Bill Clinton left the governor's office to become president and Lt. Gov.Jim Guy Tucker became governor.
Huckabee ran against attorney Nate Coulter and won by a razor-thin margin. He ran a campaign against the state's dominant Democratic establishment with the slogan, "Unplug the Machine." In November 1994, he was re-elected to a four-year term.
While Huckabee planned another Senate run in 1996 for retiring Democratic Sen. David Pryor's seat, his plans changed when Tucker resigned as governor after he got caught up in the Clinton Whitewater scandal and was convicted of fraud.
Huckabee faced a legislature with 89 Democrats out of 100 legislators in the House and only four Republicans in the 35-seat Senate. Yet, Huckabee found a way to govern.
"Huckabee's great gift as governor was to be pretty ideologically in sync with a state that was conservative on social issues but believed in government," says Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. "He took moderate, pro-government stances that were in step with the state and even on social issues, he didn't push much."

Barth cautions that Huckabee's moderate stances on children's health care and allowing children of illegal immigrants to attend college may not sit well with tea party voters who align with Palin.
During his 2008 presidential run, Huckabee played well as a candidate. He won the Iowa caucuses and came in second in South Carolina. He stayed in the race although Republicans were urging him to concede the primary to Sen. John McCain.

If he chooses to run again, Huckabee can claim Southern and Baptist credentials in Dixie and play the populist card in Iowa and New Hampshire. In California recently, he signed books at the Reagan Library -- a tip of the hat to "The Great Communicator."

In 2007, Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant and a Reagan national campaign manager, said, "Governor Huckabee has probably inspired me as much as Ronald Reagan. He had an ability to connect with people and he was a great communicator. I've looked for a long time for another candidate to do that."

Meanwhile, Palin chose to stay in the heartland and South during her book tour and appeared in Huckabee's Arkansas.
Huckabee's weakness during the 2008 campaign was lack of money -- something that Palin certainly knows how to generate. But those who know him say Huckabee is a quick study.
"Huckabee always learns from his defeats, whether they are political defeats or legislative defeats," says Rex Nelson, Huckabee's communications director while in the governor's office. "He lost his first political race to U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers in 1992, adjusted and never lost another race in Arkansas. The 2008 race was one big learning experience for him since it was his first national race. If he seeks the nomination in 2012, he will be an even better candidate."
Still, his Huck PAC has a lot less money than Palin's or Romney's. Huckabee had $194,578.01 on hand at the end of the last reporting period in November, compared to $1.2 million for Sarah PAC or $1 million for Romney's Free and Strong America PAC.
But there are signs Huckabee is starting to shift gears.
In recent weeks, as Palin took her book to the Midwest and South and appeared in Huckabee's Arkansas, Huckabee touted his book and became more vocal on current events, including WikiLeaks, tax cuts and health care. Earlier this year, Huckabee moved to Florida, a key presidential primary state, where he is building a $3 million beach house. He aligned himself last year with Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a popular tea party candidate.
While Palin heads to Haiti this week and plans a trip to Israel next year, Huckabee has visited Israel more than 10 times as a pastor and a politician. He plans another trip in late January to Israel, similar to a trip he took earlier this year with Christian crooner Pat Boone. He is an ardent supporter of Israel and can talk at length about the problems it faces.
On his PAC's website, Huckabee is trying to raise $15,000 by the end of the month. He has started to update his Facebook page and Twitter account more frequently. Social media is a tool Palin uses with great frequency to get out her message.
More than Romney or Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Barth sees Palin as Huckabee's biggest obstacle in a Republican primary.
"She's a fresher face than Huckabee," Barth says. "She has really courted the tea party a little better than Huckabee. But if she doesn't run, he is a strong, strong candidate for the nomination."

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156 Comments

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dfiorini16@aolco

Obama will easily beat Huckabee. He is not exciting and will not inspire enough people to vote for him. Yes he is conservative but he puts me to sleep. Right now his TV show gives him alot of visability, but when the real crowds have to turn out, they will not.
Sarah Palin has everyone beat cold. She will draw more people, get them excited and be well versed on Domesic and internationl affairs. Lets not forget in 2008 she was plucked out of Alaska with no preperation. No one with little or no prep time has all the answers but she is a very quick study. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE SARAH PALLIN and I am sure Obama does't.
Obama may even be challanged for the nomination. Looking over the last 2-years, looks like he has no clue. Like the tail is wagging the dog.
Americans make a mistake in 2008, they will not in 2012.

January 04 2011 at 9:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Karen Pace

I don't understand Huckabee. I enjoy his program and I like him as a person but there is something about his politics that I don't trust and I don't quite know why that is. He seems to be on both sides of an issue and I don't think a President of the United States can do that. A President must be principled enough to follow a course that is in line with the best interests of the country and also the citizens of this great country. Regarding Romney, he looks the part and sounds the part but there is something about him that doesn't excite me. I can't explain it but I don't believe the country would vote for him. This takes us to the women in the GOP. There are a number of women in govenment roles now snd the quality of their leadership is exceptional. The new congresswoman in South Dakota comes to mind. What an inspiration. Regarding Sarah, she has something that is hard to explain but the average person is drawn to her. She is fun to listen to and creates excitement wherever she goes. I wouldn't count her out. These are just some of my thoughts regarding the Republican side. Maybe my next comment will be about the Democrats.

December 22 2010 at 2:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mtmist3383

Personally, I find Huckabee to be way too sanctamonious and phoney. He wasn't that great of a governor and his television show bores me almost as much as Michelle running around saying that obese people are a national security threat. What we need is someone that has run something successfully and that has enough sense to think before they open their mouth, insert their foot and then chomp down on it.

December 14 2010 at 5:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
whetsell812

Raybasura

Evolution as it is defined is a myth and so is Adam and eve. Few would argue that things don't change/evolve over time. But to think that ourselves, our world, our universe, simply formed on their own without something more intelligent leading the way is dumb.

Even something like a human cell baffles much of our scientific community today (just one example of life that darwin GREATLY underestimated and misunderstood). How did life begin? Did cells form from mud? What was in the mud? How did the mud get here?

Staunch evolutionists can be made to look just as foolish as fundamentalist Christians when asked to answer basic questions.

December 14 2010 at 11:02 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Chris

I would like to know why not one of my posts was posted. This has happened before and it pisses me off. I did not attack anyone personally and did not use curse words and were on topic. I assume one of the moderators has something against me.

December 14 2010 at 2:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hmresq

This sounds like a puff piece to try and get Repubs to select Huck in 2012, Just like the media pumped up McCain,... until he got the nomination. Huck is another McCain (moderate, big government, cross the aisle type). If by some chance Huckabee is the nominee he'll lose the election. He has major baggage unmentioned in this article. Lots of stuff for the MSM to clobber him with as soon as he's the candidate. Plus, many conservatives will absolutely not vote for him. They can see he is a phony. They'll stay home or vote for a third party candidate if there is one.

December 13 2010 at 11:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeffgeorge2001

It's no surprise that Huckabee scores higher with those who have college degrees. She and her followers have made it a crime to be a thinker, which she equates with being an "elitist." So much for the party of William F. Buckley.

December 13 2010 at 10:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
garth8769

What the article fails to mention is that as Governor he pardoned rapists and murderers who then commited more crimes. He was known as a soft touch , and one pardoned convict went o to kill four cops in Seattle. An opponent will hammer him on that issue.

December 13 2010 at 6:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
diandra128

Seriously? The GOP choices will be Palin or Huckabee? Seriously?

December 13 2010 at 6:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
eddie@orionpipeline.com

We need a fresh new ticket like congresswoman Michelle Bachman from Minnesota and Texas congressman Louie Gohmert. Real Republicans and not someone chaisng after the big prize. They are both Patriots that we could count on.

December 13 2010 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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