Mike Huckabee

Huckabee’s Future

Over the weekend, Mike Huckabee jaunted off to the Cayman Islands to deliver a speech at the Young Caymanian Leadership Foundation’s awards banquet because … well, he needed the money:

“No taxpayers pay for me to have health insurance, to pay my mortgage, to pay my bills,” Mr. Huckabee said. “And so to me, it’s not just absurd, it’s beyond absurd — it’s insulting — to think that there’s something nefarious about my being here when nobody has raised the question about sitting U.S. senators taking their full paycheck and enjoying all the magnificent perks they get from the U.S. taxpayers.”

Obviously, Huckabee needs to earn money when and where he can, since his only job at the moment is running his long-shot presidential campaign, especially since he thinks that this very campaign just “may be killing my political career.” 

Of course, rather than “killing” his career, this quixotic endeavor has actually made his career.  After all, had he not run and managed to outlast much bigger names like Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani, nobody would be speculating as to whether he might be tapped to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee or to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services.  

On top of that, he has built up a large base of right-wing supporters that could easily propel him into a position as one of the nation’s leading, most high-profile Religious Right leaders once the race is over, much as Pat Robertson did following his own run for president.  

Far from hurting his political future, Huckabee’s campaign is still out there stumping with figures like Steven Hotze and continuing to rack up support from various right-wing leaders: 

"This is Texas," declared Rick Green, a Mike Huckabee supporter. "In Texas, we don't cut and run. In Texas, we don't give up and go home before the fight is over."

Although the Huckabee camp has worked to define its candidate more broadly as a tax-cutting economic populist, Monday's supporters made it clear why they were there.

"Protecting life and protecting the family," said the Rev. Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pflugerville. "We are to vote for the candidate who will best champion this cause of the Lord, this moral cause."

Brent Bullock, who works for a Christian nonprofit group, warned of corrosive "secular humanism and socialist ideologies."

Green works for Wallbuilders along with renowned pseudo-historian David Barton, while Bullock happens to run the America Bless God Campaign of Texas which seeks to “reestablish the Word of God as the moral standard in America”:

America's predominate population of Christians has been influenced by Secular Humanism and contemporary American culture, which has damaged the testimony of the church and the foundations of civil government.  We live in an age where each man does what is right in his own eyes, and there is a great struggle over the standards by which we should live.  Many lives are being damaged by man's immoral standards.  We believe that God's moral standard, as revealed in the Bible, should be the standard we live by; not my standard or yours.  Biblical standards, understood in the full contextual interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, provide for a blessed society.

Once his campaign is officially over, Huckabee will find himself well-positioned to join the ranks of high-profile Religious Right leaders such as James Dobson and Tony Perkins, should he so choose.  In fact he would probably be quite capable of not only joining them, but outright challenging them considering that the “values voters” they claim to represent have been flocking to his campaign while the leaders have been glaringly slow to embrace him. 

As Janet Folger, one of Huckabee’s biggest supporters, put it:  

There is something this political race is doing that nobody would have expected. Among conservative and pro-family leadership the sheep are being separated from the shepherds.

There are those in "leadership" in the pro-family movement who follow the pundits, the polls or the politicians instead of leading on principle. I could list them, but, well, you already know who they are. The ones sitting on their hands or convening to the candidate of compromise.

There are sheep, and there are shepherds. Sheep follow the pundits, the polls, political expediency and promised perks. Shepherds follow principle. Gov. Mike Huckabee is such a man. So are those who stand on principle with him.

Will They or Won’t They?

Ever since James Dobson declared that he would never vote for John McCain, the big question has been whether the Republican Party’s Religious Right base would follow suit or whether they would support McCain simply as the lesser of two evils.  

While there appear to be some efforts underway to threaten to abandon the GOP altogether,  McCain has been making inroads with various Religious Right leaders and slowly securing endorsements from the likes of Gary Bauer and Fidelis.  And while some on the Right, such as Tony Perkins, are perfectly happy to see Mike Huckabee stay in the race in order to remind McCain that the Religious Right is not dead and force him to cater to the “voters who are passionate about the issues that Mike Huckabee addresses,” others conservative leaders predict that, for all the public grumbling and gnashing of teeth, the Right will eventually come around.  

As Haley Barbour put it:

If people like that don't vote for John McCain, it means Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is going to be President. It's one thing in February or May or even August to say that you're not willing to support John McCain. But life is a series of choices, and inevitably the choice in November is going to be between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. Now, those people will look into their hearts and decide what to do. But for an incredibly high percentage of conservatives and Republicans, they'll vote for John McCain.

Others are making the same point – and even militant McCain-hater Rick Santorum says he’ll suck it up and vote for McCain:

Less than a week after Romney withdrew from the race, Santorum told WORLD he's still rankled by McCain, but won't avoid the ballot box in November if he's the GOP pick: "When you look at the [Democratic] alternatives, it makes the choice of whoever the Republican nominee is that much easier to vote for."

Ultimately, pointing out the alternative may be the key to McCain's hopes of wooing conservatives. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says McCain could take several steps to reach out to evangelicals, but adds: "In the end, there's not anything that John McCain can do to unite conservatives that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can't do better."

The prospect of a Democratic presidency looms large in Gary Bauer's support of McCain. The Christian conservative and former presidential candidate formally endorsed McCain in early February and told WORLD he's baffled by evangelicals who say they won't vote for the senator if he's the Republican nominee.

Bauer points out that the next president may nominate as many as three Supreme Court justices. "If those justices are appointed by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, we will have abortion for another 35 years and we will have same-sex marriage," he says. "We will have lost the two main things on the social agenda, probably forever."

And just in case the wavering right-wing voters needed any more convincing, Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina weighs in to say that sitting out the election would be an affront to God:

Most troubling, however, is that many conservative evangelicals are now acting as though God were not sovereign in the political process. Have we become more focused on the process than on the God who controls it? Granted, we must diligently seek to influence the culture for righteousness sake. Nevertheless, evangelicals are not sailing the ship politic and never were. There is but one Captain - the Lord - and He raises to power whomever He wills. Infighting and laying blame is counterproductive to advancing the kingdom.

These experiences test our faith in God’s mysterious ways. And they strain our commitment to Christian liberty - the very foundation of our belief in political freedom. Let us lay aside the attacks on our brethren.

Neither is this a time to withdraw. Only a straining of the facts makes John McCain equal to or worse than the godless direction a Clinton or Obama ticket would take the nation. Such would not only imperil the social agenda of conservative evangelicals, but jeopardize one of the greatest of family values - protection of the American people from the violence of its enemies. If America bails out on the war effort before the job is finished, the United States will not only be dishonored, but the terrorists will follow our troops home.

Moreover, to disengage - worse still, not to vote - I believe is a grievous mistake. Though a person certainly has the right to adhere to his/her conscience in such action, it should be noted that to do so is to walk away from one's place at the table. With what credibility can one possibly speak to those serving in office when one was previously unwilling to even vote? At that point, one's credibility as a part of the discussion - now or later - becomes significantly compromised.

For whatever it's worth, having served as a lobbyist in the North Carolina General Assembly since 1999, there are two great truths constantly before me when seeking to influence the politics of those sacred halls: (1) God is sovereign over everything and ultimately His will cannot be defeated; and (2) no person or group involved in politics ever gets all they want all of the time. But for Christ's sake, one must ever be vigilant in victory and defeat. And one must always find positive ways to stay engaged in the process.

Back to Square One

Remember a few months ago when various Religious Right leaders gathered in Utah and announced that they were prepared to considering abandoning the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani became the nominee?  

Well, just because Giuliani dropped out doesn’t mean those threats have evaporated – in fact, a new effort appears to be underway now that John McCain has all but locked up the GOP nomination:

The same conservative Christian activist who called a meeting last fall to discuss backing a third-party candidate to counter a possible Rudy Giuliani candidacy is revisiting the idea as Sen. John McCain closes in on the Republican presidential nomination.

Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and anti-abortion activist, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that while he could back the Arizona senator over either Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, he made clear that he and others in the evangelical movement are not content with those choices.

"I'll be working in other ways to see that we have additional choices as conservatives," Fischer said.

He declined to elaborate, but held out hope that Mike Huckabee might mount an improbable comeback, or that another "good conservative, Godly, Christian pro-life" GOP candidate somehow emerge to supplant McCain. The Arizona lawmaker has opposed abortion during his four terms in the Senate.

Fischer said that for large numbers of social conservatives to entertain backing McCain, he would need to reverse himself on several positions, including his support for relaxing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Fischer said if McCain prevails short of doing that, he and many other conservatives "will not work as hard as we could" to elect him.

He then raised the possibility of Christian conservatives lining up behind the Constitution Party, citing its conservative moral stances and ability to get on state ballots, a steeper challenge for an entirely new party.

The article notes that this new effort might not get as much support as the anti-Rudy threat since, as Huckabee-backer Mat Staver notes, McCain is seen as much better on the social issues the Right cares about than was Giuliani.   And considering that the McCain campaign is currently hard at work reaching out to the very sorts who would likely participate in such a meeting, the impact of any such an effort is likely to be limited.

Time Running Out for Huck

Mitt Romney is set to endorse John McCain and release his delegates, putting McCain just short of the 1,191 he needs to secure the GOP nomination, the magic figure Mike Huckabee keeps citing as to why he won't drop out.

Obama, Castro, and Marx

Mike Huckabee supporter Tony Beam says that evangelicals must beware Barack Obama and his rhetoric of change: "There can be no doubt that Barack Obama is both a Leftist dream and an Evangelical nightmare. He supports the most extreme agenda ever proposed for the American people. Yet most of his supporters don’t have a clue because all they know is he represents 'change.' It would be good to remember that Karl Marx brought change to Russia and Fidel Castro brought change to Cuba. Both forms of change came complete with chains that still bind people to the lie of Marxism. Change without knowing which direction the change will take us is a scary proposition."

Huck Schedules Visit to Cayman Islands

Not for pleasure, but business - he's got to make a living, you know: "Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on Wednesday defended his decision to suspend campaigning before Wisconsin's presidential primary so he can fly to the Cayman Islands to give a paid speech.He said he needs to make a living, and the event has been on his schedule for months."

CPAC in Pictures

Perhaps nothing sums up the current state of the conservative movement like seeing a Hummer back into a limousine in the parking lot outside the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and seeing Mitt Romney beat John McCain in the CPAC straw poll on the question of “If the election were held today to decide the Republican Nominee for President in 2008, for whom would you vote?” despite having appeared at the conference only to drop out of the race. And while attendees were asked not to boo McCain, it didn’t stop them from doing so when he spoke … or whenever his name was mentioned by any of the other speakers.

Aside from the weirdness of Mike Huckabee basing his entire on speech on Phyllis Schlafly’s "A Choice, Not an Echo" despite the fact that Schlafly hates him and the sense of overwhelming despair at the possibility of a McCain nomination, the rest of CPAC consisted of typical right-wing fare, such as Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily delineating the dangers of the Fairness Doctrine, warning that if Democrats take control of the White House and Congress, “there will be no stopping these people” who operate with a “neo-fascist mentality,” only to be followed by David Horowitz who ranted about “fair-minded” conservatives being oppressed by liberals who want to “exterminate us.”  Or, as he put it, when liberals control the universities, they merely send conservatives to sensitivity training, but when “they control they state, they shoot you.”   

But it wasn’t all fear-mongering.  There was some good news too, such as the announcement by the National Black Republican Association that they were slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with, because last year their website received over one thousand visitors.  Of course, the NBRA might be even more of a force within the GOP if their panels weren’t relegated to a tiny room at the back of the convention

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Though the event appeared to be less-well attended than in previous years, there was no shortage of red meat for those in attendance, as demonstrated by the hundreds of convention-goers who lined up hours in advance to get in to hear Ann Coulter

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But despite the seeming disarray of the right-wing movement at the present, there still appears to be at least one thing that can unify them in this country: hatred of Hillary Clinton

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To see more photos from CPAC, check out our Flickr page.

Dobson’s Craven Calculation

There was an article in Time last week wondering if James Dobson’s political clout was fading.  Citing shrinking contributions, revenue, distribution, and audiences, the article suggested that Dobson was reluctant to “back a candidate so early in the game [because] backing a losing horse could devalue the worth of any future Dobson anointment.

Judging by his latest round of news-making, one has to wonder if Dobson has intentionally set out to make himself the object of ridicule and irrelevance.  A few weeks ago, it was noted that Focus on the Family Action’s post-South Carolina primary political analysis was conspicuously flattering toward Mitt Romney, and while all involved denied that it could be construed as an endorsement, it was pretty obvious that Romney was their candidate of choice.

Then Dobson suddenly emerged from his headquarters in Colorado Springs after Super Tuesday to tell the world that his conscience would not allow him to support John McCain and that he was seeking a million voters to pledge to do the same, seemingly with the aim of mobilizing support behind Romney.

But Dobson’s efforts came too late, and Romney dropped out, leaving only McCain and Mike Huckabee.  And so Dobson, being ever-bold and principled, has decided to endorse the only remaining candidate he hasn’t publicly repudiated:

I am endorsing Gov. Mike Huckabee for President of the United States today. My decision comes in the wake of my statement on Super Tuesday that I could not vote for Sen. John McCain, even if he goes on to win the Republican nomination.  His record on the institution of the family and other conservative issues makes his candidacy a matter of conscience and concern for me.

That left two pro-family candidates whom I could support, but I was reluctant to choose between them. However, the decision by Gov. Mitt Romney to put his campaign "on hold" changes the political landscape.  The remaining candidate for whom I could vote is Gov. Huckabee.  His unwavering positions on the social issues, notably the institution of marriage, the importance of faith and the sanctity of human life, resonate deeply with me and with many others. That is why I will support Gov. Huckabee through the remaining primaries, and will vote for him in the general election if he should get the nomination. Obviously, the governor faces an uphill struggle, given the delegates already committed to Sen. McCain.  Nevertheless, I believe he is our best remaining choice for President of the United States.

Nothing reeks of desperation more than announcing a halfhearted endorsement in the middle of the night when it is obvious that you are only supporting the candidate because you hate his opponent.

Dobson’s primary purpose in deciding to throw in with Huckabee only after the cause was lost is presumably to give himself cover for not voting for McCain in the general election.  After all, if the one GOP candidate who truly holds “unwavering positions” on the importance of faith, marriage, and the sanctity of human life can’t win the Republican nomination, then what choice does Dobson have but to stand by his principles and refuse to support the party’s candidate?

Of course, considering that Huckabee’s “unwavering positions on the social issues” on which Dobson has built his entire career have been the centerpiece of his campaign, you’d think he would have endorsed him months ago … which is exactly what Huckabee has been saying all along. Had he done so, perhaps Huckabee wouldn’t be facing the kind of “uphill struggle” he faces now which makes it increasingly unlikely that he’ll actually be the nominee.

But doing that would have required taking a stand on principle when it actually mattered and supporting the one candidate who epitomizes the values Dobson claims to represent instead of hedging his bets and trying to shape the race through subtle signals, un-endorsements, and craven, late-night political calculations.

The McCain Quandary

As the Conservative Political Action Conference convenes today in Washington, the Right Wing is in a rut, divided over the Republican presidential candidates. CPAC is always a time when the “conservative movement” pays homage to Ronald Reagan, who spoke at the event 12 times since 1974; last year, candidates fell over themselves to see who could invoke Reagan’s name the most, even as graying activists warned of a decline in adherence to Reaganology.

The focus this year will be on John McCain, who managed to defy a number of talk radio hosts and emerge the frontrunner in last night’s elections. McCain had to pull out from last year’s CPAC in the face of a hostile reception, but he’s spent the interim brown-nosing the far right, and it’s no surprise that this time he’s planning to drum up late support by emphasizing his right-wing credentials and channeling the Reagan spirit: Human Events editor Jed Babbin reports that “McCain has prepared a video featuring President Ronald Reagan to make the introduction.”

Babbin warns that this would “backfire”:

Very few of the 2008 CPAC crowd will see McCain as the successor to Reagan and Reagan’s principles.  McCain has sacrificed conservatives’ fundamental beliefs throughout his Senate career.  If McCain uses this introduction, the boos will be very loud.

McCain faces a real quandary.  If he fails at CPAC -- and doesn’t win the CPAC straw poll (he finished dead last in 2007) -- the word will be out that the conservatives are off his team this year. 

But at this point, given the likelihood that McCain will win the Republican nomination, it’s the CPAC crowd that faces the quandary: If they pan him again, but GOP voters select him anyway, then what kind of influence do these activists really have?

Huckabee’s Latest Strategy: Whining

Aside from presenting himself as the one true “Christian leader” best prepared to be the nation’s first “Pastor in Chief,” Mike Huckabee’s primary campaign strategy seems to be whining about how unfairly he is being treated.  

So far, while his supporters have been demanding recounts of straw polls and proclaiming that he is the victim of anti-evangelical bias, he has been busy complaining about other Christian leaders refusing to back him, saying that his faith is receiving undue scrutiny, and suggesting that there is some sort of anti-Huckabee conspiracy at work. Lately, he has begun whining that Mitt Romney is engaging in “voter suppression” and saying that Romney ought to drop out of the race because he is stealing his votes.  

And now he has taken to blasting “establishment Republicans” who want him to drop out, saying that social conservatives are sick of being told to sit at the “back of the bus,” complaining that they’ve paid their dues and deserve to sit at the head of the table for once:

One day before Super Tuesday, when he hopes to regain some much-needed momentum in the South, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told Baptist Press that the GOP must not relegate social conservatives to the "back of the bus," as he says some "establishment Republicans" have done.

"What we're beginning to find out now," he told BP, "is that some of the establishment Republicans were more than happy to have social conservatives, as long as we would make sure we helped provide the vote margin to get Republicans elected and we were willing to hammer in yard signs and attend rallies and scream. But when we actually wanted to not just have a seat at the table but sit at the head of the table, make decisions on issues that are very, very important to us and always have been, suddenly we're not welcome anymore. We've been asked to go to the back of the bus.

"It's been very revealing. Either this is a party that social conservatives have a home in or we don't.... We've paid our dues."

Who knows, maybe whining is a winning electoral strategy.  But since Huckabee plans on staying in the race even if he gets trounced on Super Tuesday, maybe he’ll have time to try out a campaign strategy that doesn’t involve playing the victim and that expands beyond his right-wing Christian base.

Black Conservatives Rally For Huck

An organization called Republicans for Black Empowerment announces a press conference urging Mike Huckabee to stay in the race: "Inside-the-beltway Republicans have lost touch with the increasing seriousness with which heartland conservatives relate to the traditional values agenda," states Star Parker, a nationally syndicated columnist and conservative activist. "More and more folks are feeling personally assaulted by the meaninglessness that is gripping our culture and believe that Mike Huckabee is the only republican candidate that embodies the moral clarity of the GOP ideals. The groundswell generating support for Huckabee's candidacy understand that moral and economic health go hand in hand and should not be underestimated."

Huckabee Took Money From Common Sense Issues PAC

Politico reports that "Mike Huckabee has renounced the support of Common Sense Issues Inc. and has called for an investigation into its push-polling on his behalf. But that didn’t stop his campaign from accepting a $2,000 contribution from the group’s political action committee, according to Huckabee’s fourth-quarter report."

Who Will Console Rick Scarborough?

With the Republican presidential campaign seemingly narrowed to a race between John McCain and Mitt Romney, one wonders what will become of Mike Huckabee’s more high-profile Religious Right backers?  While Janet Folger appears busy starting up her own anti-Romney front group, Huckabee’s other most vocal and committed supporter, Rick Scarborough, seems to have been reduced to complaining and finger-pointing:

Scarborough was scathing in his assessment of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who picked up Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement Wednesday (and might haul in the backing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had supported Giuliani).

Scarborough told me: “We are left with a candidate for president who showed his disdain for the Christian Right in 2000 when he tried to salvage his candidacy by trashing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson while campaigning in South Carolina. He destroyed any attempt by (Senate Majority Leader) Bill Frist to end once and for all the unconstitutional requirement of 60 senators to affirm judicial appointments by joining the Gang of 14 (senators from both parties agreeing to avoid frequent partisan wars over judges) and his McCain/Feingold (campaign finance) bill was a direct assault on grassroots activism while McCain-Kennedy (an immigration act) revealed his true convictions about amnesty. Oddly enough, the ‘establishment’ candidate once threatened to leave the party he now will likely represent.”

Scarborough took issue with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney too, saying Romney “was wrong on every pro-family issue his entire career until he decided to run for the Republican nomination.”   

Scarborough rued: “The most visible Christian leaders in our movement decided that Huckabee was ‘unelectable,’ which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am angered and frustrated by that reality, but secure in God’s sovereignty.”

It has been a tough campaign for Scarborough, who has been struggling from the very beginning to figure out how best to position himself in order to maximize his influence and visibility.  Initially, Scarborough sounded like he was supporting Sam Brownback and announced that he’d be launching a “70 Weeks to Save America” crusade to mobilize “100,000 Values Voters, 10,000 key leaders, 5,000 Patriot Pastors and 5,000 women” – an effort that almost immediately put the organization deep in debt. 

Over the coming months, he went on to suggest that none of the top-tier candidates was going to be acceptable to the GOP’s Religious Right base and that they should consider leaving the party all together.  But then, when others began suggesting the same thing, Scarborough flip-flopped and told them to “grow up,” hold their noses, and support the Republican nominee for the sake of judges … only to flip-flop back again and say that his political work was not about winning elections but “honoring Christ.” 

He then got involved with the Values Voter Debate, where Mike Huckabee firmly established himself as the “David among Jesse’s sons" and soon he was serving on Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition and hard to work organizing pro-Huckabee get-out-the-vote rallies and joining the candidate at fundraisers.

But now that Huckabee’s campaign seems to be winding down, Scarborough is on the verge of being left without a candidate or a coherent set of principles on which to move forward.  What, oh what, is a Christocrat to do?

Romney’s Fading Hope?

With the number of the Republican presidential hopefuls rapidly dwindling, the GOP primary looks to be coming down to a race between Mitt Romney and John McCain – and considering that many on the Right seem to hate McCain, it only stands to reason that Romney sees winning over those who cannot tolerate his main opponent as key to securing the nomination:

Romney advisers said they would try to attract more support from social conservatives and evangelicals who had flocked to Huckabee and Fred Thompson, who dropped out of the race last week.

"Conservatives have got to take a real hard look and realize this is what you have left: You have Mitt Romney and John McCain. And with two left, I think that helps us a lot," Jay Sekulow, a senior Romney adviser, said last night. [Sekulow is head of the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice.]

For months, Romney has been courting and stacking his campaign with a variety of right-wing activists and seems to have redoubled his efforts in recent weeks, leaving him poised to become the Religious Right’s candidate, if only by default – and Romney’s strategy heading forward seems to be to leave no right-wing activist uncourted:

The Reverend Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK), president of the National Clergy Council and chairman of the committee on church and society for the Evangelical Church Alliance, will be in Florida today meeting with pastors in several cities to talk about candidates and primary voting.

Mr. Schenck, who does not endorse candidates, will end the day with the Mitt Romney campaign at its invitation.

While the Romney campaign had a problem with Mike Huckabee’s campaign’s attempts to use the issue of faith to polarize the electorate, they apparently have no problem with Schenck’s view that Barack Obama's Christianity is woefully deficient. Maybe they think they can win him over because he is already mad at McCain for scheduling a campaign event “smack in the middle of Sunday morning church hours.” 

For what it is worth, Ralph Reed has also been making the rounds with Romney recently, apparently having forgiven him for confusing him with Gary Bauer early last year.  

But the Romney campaign seems to recognize that this effort can’t really get going so long as Huckabee remains in the race:

Romney acknowledged that the continued presence of Mike Huckabee in the race is a problem for him and made the point that the former Arkansas governor is no longer a contender.

“I don’t know what kind of support Mike Huckabee will get going forward,” Romney said. “I think conservatives recognize that a vote for Mike Huckabee right now really means a vote for John McCain. So that may have them re-think that.”

Unfortunately for Romney, the Huckabee campaign doesn't look like it'll be dropping out between now and Super Tuesday , after which it just might be too late for Romney to fully implement this strategy … which is probably just fine with Huckabee, who clearly prefers McCain, and Huckabee’s supporters, who are busy starting up anti-Romney front groups.

The Brownback Endorsement

Last October, Mike Huckabee was hoping to score an endorsement from another second-tier, right-wing candidate who had dropped out, but Sam Brownback ended up backing John McCain. Huckabee, who was even more cash-strapped back then, probably never stood a chance. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Brownback had financial problems that only a nominee with deep-pocketed contributors could fix:

Some of John McCain's largest political donors sent checks to failed GOP presidential candidate Sam Brownback to help him pay off his campaign debt in the days after the Kansas senator endorsed McCain. …

Brownback's endorsement of McCain on Nov. 7 gave the Republican senator from Arizona a much-needed boost at a time when his campaign was faltering; it also helped bolster McCain's credentials among conservatives who have been skeptical of him.

As of Dec. 31, Brownback's presidential campaign remained more than $32,000 in debt. But his campaign made $226,000 in payments in the final three months of 2007, aided in part by donations from McCain backers, Federal Election Commission filings show.

Brownback's filing indicates that after he endorsed McCain, at least 17 donors gave him the maximum $2,300 each -- totaling nearly $40,000. Those donors are among McCain's largest contributors, having given almost $250,000 to his various campaign accounts in recent years.

Meanwhile, McCain is trying to get his money’s worth, name-dropping Brownback left and right while talking with conservative Catholics.

Delta Farce

Mike Huckabee is hoping to pick up Fred Thompson’s leftovers, but that doesn’t seem to be going so well. Aside from Gary Bauer and other religious-right leaders who still don’t like Huckabee, a number of Thompson’s backers have switched to Mitt Romney. And now an embittered former Thompson staffer has started his own campaign hitting Huckabee where it hurts most: his sidekick, Chuck Norris.

Huckabee may joke about his action-hero endorsement, but as we’ve noted before, he’s made Norris a very serious part of his campaign. And not just in terms of livening up his stage shows: Norris is aggressively raising money, hoping to provide $10 million for the cash-strapped candidate (one recent fundraiser netted $250,000).

Dennis Ng, founder of BoycottChuckNorris.com, says that makes Norris “fair game”:

Saying he's 'kicking Chuck Norris where it hurts – his wallet,' Ng explains he's starting the boycott because Norris endorsed a presidential candidate and supports ideas "far out of the mainstream."

Ng singles out Norris' endorsement of Huckabee – "a candidate who says that he does not believe in evolution," and "who called for the isolation of AIDS patients – long after the Centers for Disease Control determined that the virus was not spread by casual contact." …

Ng is asking visitors to his site to join him in boycotting products Norris endorses and companies that purchase advertising on reruns of his long-running CBS television series, "Walker, Texas Ranger." In the first category, Ng lists exercise-equipment manufacturer Total Gym, endorsed by the actor. Sponsors listed are KFC, Payless Shoes, Nutrisystem, Tylenol and Geico Insurance.

“Republicans long decried celebrities telling us how to vote,” says Ng. So, uh, is that why Ng’s own candidate, famous actor Fred Dalton Thompson, had to drop out?

Bruce Willis, Fred Thompson in Die Hard 2

Romney Picks Up Where He Left Off

In the early going, before the entrance of Fred Thompson and the rise of Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney set out to be the preferred candidate of the Religious Right.  And he was well positioned to do so, since Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were (and are) widely reviled by the Religious Right establishment and their supporters.  

Back then, Romney was hard at work meeting with Jerry Falwell and others, hobnobbing with right-wing leaders at their events, and buying victories in conservative straw polls.  But then Fred Thompson appeared on the scene and began siphoning off potential right-wing supporters while Mike Huckabee staked his claim as the most religious candidate in the field on his way to winning the support of a wide-range of Religious Right leaders.  

Through it all, Romney plodded along, picking up a handful of right-wing backer here and there, but the pickings were slim.  But now, with Thompson out of the race, it looks like things might be turning around for his campaign:

Joining Romney for President after having served as National Co-Chair of Lawyers for Fred Thompson, Victoria Toensing said, "Appointing strong judges is one of our President's most important responsibilities. The next President will make a number of appointments, and I am confident Governor Romney will nominate judges in the mold of President Bush's nominees, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. I am proud to work with Governor Romney and this outstanding group of legal minds."

Also joining the Advisory committee from Lawyers for Fred Thompson are Lizette D. Benedi, Rachel L. Brand, Reginald Brown, Charles J. Cooper, Joseph E. diGenova, Michael R. Dimino, Viet D. Dinh, Noel J. Francisco and Eileen J. O'Connor.

And with Huckabee’s campaign slowly collapsing due to lack of funds, Romney is able to starting picking up the support of right-wing leaders once again

Dennis Baxley, David Caton, Carole Griffin and Anthony Verdugo, representing over fifty years of combined pro-family leadership in Florida, support Mitt Romney in the Florida Presidential Preference Primary.

Mitt Romney is clearly the most conservative candidate among the top three competitive candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) appearing on the Florida Presidential Preference ballot in Florida.

Dennis Baxley is the incoming Executive Director for Christian Coalition of Florida and former Florida State Representative for District 24.

David Caton is the Executive Director of Florida Family Association.

Carole Griffin is a pro-family lobbyist in Tallahassee and heads the Eagle Forum in Florida.

Anthony Verdugo is the president of Christian Family Coalition.

So, with the field thinning, things are starting to look up for Romney, at least as far as being the Republican candidate most willing and able to pander to the Right is concerned.

Don't Cry for Me, Gary Bauer

“My assessment is that at this moment in time it is Fred Thompson's race to lose,” said Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention political leader, back in July. “It may be a convergence of the right man, in the right place and at the right time. I have never seen anything like this grassroots swell for Thompson.”

Needless to say, the swelling went down—after a disappointing “last stand” in the South Carolina primary, Thompson put an end to his presidential campaign. Thompson joined the race late, but in spite of that fact that he was going after the same voters as all the other Republican candidates, he started off with strong polling, thanks to the gushing support from Land, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and other high-profile figures. Given Thompson’s lackluster campaign—in which the candidate developed a reputation for laziness and boring speeches—it seems likely that his run was propped up more by these big-name supporters than by the grassroots.

We haven’t heard from Land yet, but Bauer had some strong words for his former boss, James Dobson—who came out early against Thompson, even saying he “doesn’t think [Thompson’s] a Christian”—and others who failed to recognize the hidden beauty of the senator-turned-actor:

Gary Bauer says Thompson was the victim of identity politics during his White House bid. … "He was a good candidate with a great record on the life issue and on other issues we care about," says Bauer, "and I'm saddened that some leaders of our movement attacked him and treated him as if he were the enemy when he is much, much better than most of the candidates who have a chance of getting the nomination." …

"I ran into a lot of Christians out there as I traveled around the country who were for Mike Huckabee, first and foremost, because they saw him as an evangelical like them -- and I understand the appeal to that because I am an evangelical Christian," says the conservative leader. "But I kept reminding people, 'So is Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton sang in the choir in his church in Arkansas.'"

He adds "it's nice to know that somebody shares our values, [but] it's not enough that that be the justification to support them."

Given Thompson’s extra-special treatment from some well-established religious-right leaders, Bauer’s complaint that the establishment blackballed Thompson rings a little hollow—especially in as much as it echoes that of Mike Huckabee and his supporters, who say leaders like Bauer have been unfairly dismissing him as a real candidate. (“‘Richard Land swoons for Fred Thompson,’’ Huckabee said last month. ‘‘I don’t know what that’s about. For reasons I don’t fully understand, some of these Washington-based people forget why they are there.’’)

But at least one old-guard movement figure is happy to see Thompson out: “Thompson snoozed through the campaign the same way he snoozed through his Senate career. … He did little and left even less of a mark,” crowed Richard Viguerie, who never liked Thompson.

Huckabee Out-Tancredoing Himself

“We're going to win South Carolina,” said a confident Mike Huckabee last week, even as he saw his solid lead in the polls dissipating. Perhaps hoping to broaden his base beyond those looking to elect pastor-in-chief, Huckabee is once again repositioning himself further to the right on immigration.

Huckabee’s first rightward stab on immigration last month caused quite a bit of confusion. He adopted a plan from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies and announced the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minutemen. Dozens of anti-immigrant activists soon denounced Gilchrist’s endorsement—Chris Simcox, the other Minutemen co-founder, called Huckabee’s plan “duplicitous.”

Last week, Huckabee made another attempt by convincing Gilchrist that he supported a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship. This, too, was met with confusion, as Huckabee quickly denied that he would push such an amendment, but left open the claim that he would advocate a fringe interpretation that simply writes it out of the Constitution.

Now Huckabee has signed a “no amnesty” pledge from another right-wing group, Numbers USA (through its advocacy arm Americans for Better Immigration). From the Washington Times:

The pledge, offered by immigration control advocacy group Numbers USA, commits Mr. Huckabee to oppose a new path to citizenship for current illegal aliens and to cut the number of illegal aliens already in the country through attrition by law enforcement — something Mr. Huckabee said he will achieve through his nine-point immigration plan. …

yesterday's pledge — signed at a press conference with Numbers USA Executive Director Roy Beck — was an effort to provide answers. It's a major reversal from less than two months ago, when Mr. Beck told The Washington Times that Mr. Huckabee was "an absolute disaster" on immigration during his time as governor. Americans for Better Immigration, another group Mr. Beck runs, has rated Mr. Huckabee's record as "poor." …

But Mr. Beck yesterday said Mr. Huckabee has made a number of key promises going forward, including to not grant illegal aliens long-term legal status; to reject a guaranteed right of return for those who go home voluntarily under his nine-point plan; and to not increase green cards as a way of allowing them to come back more quickly.

"Probably, this is the strongest no-amnesty, attrition plan of any of the candidates," Mr. Beck said.

And as part of a tag-team effort, Gilchrist is back defending his endorsement, similarly promising that Huckabee supports “no amnesty whatsoever.”

These efforts may help Huckabee in South Carolina against John McCain, who continues to take heat for supporting comprehensive immigration reform in the past. But they are still not enough to convince William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who has been a leading anti-immigrant critic of Huckabee. Gheen has launched an attempt to draft Lou Dobbs, the CNN host with some far-right views on immigration, as a candidate. The dim possibility of a Dobbs candidacy was talked about back in November, but Gheen said his group is prepared to “camp outside his office” to make it happen.

Huckabee Says Opponents of SC Flag Can Shove It

Mike Huckabee refuses to take a stance on the South Carolina flag, saying it is up to the state to decide: "In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole, that's what we'd do."
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Mike Huckabee Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/16/2010, 11:57am
Last week we noted that Mike Huckabee was going to be heading to Iowa to headline a fundraiser for the Iowa Family Policy Center, which is now being run by Bob Vander Plaats, and that Huckabee had stated quite clearly that he was attending the event in his capacity as a political leader. So I am sure that it is purely coincidental that Vander Plaats has announced that the organizations he will be overseeing intend to be heavily involved in the state's 2012 Republican presidential caucuses: Former Republican candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats will lead a reorganized conservative policy... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 11/16/2010, 10:17am
Newt Gingrich Obama: Calls President’s policies “very dangerous” but believes “he loves this country” (CBN News, 11/15). GOP: Says Republicans can “replace the left” with a ten-year plan (CBS News, 11/12). Mike Huckabee Congress: Like Romney, launches petition to support earmark ban (HuckPac, 11/15). Defense: Open to cutting defense spending to reduce the deficit (Think Progress, 11/15). Religious Right: Confusion over form of Huckabee’s speech to Iowa Family Policy Center (RWW, 11/11). Sarah Palin Reality TV: Premier of new show... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 11/11/2010, 10:39am
We noted the other day that Mike Huckabee was heading to Iowa to raise money for the Iowa Family Policy Center, which is now being overseen by Bob Vander Plaats who recently orchestrated the removal of three state Supreme Court justices in order to carry out "God's will." In anticipation of Huckabee's visit, Pastor Dean Schmitt of Cedar Falls was featured in a video produced by IFPC explaining that Huckabee was "coming not as a politician but as a pastor" so he can "share his heart about the needs for the church to be energized and engaged in our culture":... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/09/2010, 1:50pm
Earlier this year, Bob Vander Plaats made an effort to secure the GOP nomination for Governor in Iowa and lost to Terry Branstad, prompting the right-wing state affiliate of Focus on the Family, the Iowa Family Policy Center, to announce that it was going to sit out the race. Vander Plaats went on to head Iowa For Freedom and team up with national groups like the Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage, and American Family Association, as well as the Iowa Family Policy Center, in carrying out "God's will" by removing three state Supreme Court justices... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 11/02/2010, 10:06am
With the midterm elections taking place today, tomorrow is the unofficial beginning of the race for the 2012 GOP nomination. Haley Barbour Tea Party: Claims that Tea Party candidates will find a home in the GOP (AP, 11/2) GOP: Says that Party will have to earn trust since voters are “not saying ‘Hey, we love you Republicans,’” (CBS, 11/1). Newt Gingrich 2012: Tells WaPo that a 2012 bid is becoming “increasingly” practical (WaPo, 10/29). Florida: Holds “Jobs Here Jobs Now” rally in Florida (Florida Times-Union, 10/29). Mike Huckabee... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 10/28/2010, 5:39pm
After speaking at Liberty University, Newt Gingrich met with Jim Garlow, Tom Minnery, Craig Parshall, and others. Mike Huckabee has apologized to Karl Rove. Antonin Scalia has no use for those who "reject a priori, with no investigation, the possibility of miracles in general and of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in particular." Is there anything more terrifying than a book entitled "Why Am I Conservative?" aimed at children that contains a foreward by Bryan Fischer? Well, maybe the people who call into Fischer's radio program: MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 10/26/2010, 9:46am
Newt Gingrich 2010: Campaigns with GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich in Ohio (Columbus Business First, 10/25). Iowa: Holds “American Solutions” rally in Sioux City, Iowa (Sioux City Journal, 10/22). Mike Huckabee GOP: Defends Christine O’Donnell and hits “elitist” establishment (Raw Story, 10/25). Religious Right: Sarah Posner looks into Huckabee’s ties to anti-gay groups (Religion Dispatches, 10/25). Economy: Defends the “Fair Tax” on Fox News (Fox News, 10/25). Sarah Palin 2010: Slams Lisa Murkowski, lauds Joe Miller, in... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 10/25/2010, 2:51pm
Earlier today I noted that Mike Huckabee seemingly has no problem associating himself with fringe right-wing and Religious Right activists, regardless of how radical they may be. Now Sarah Posner brings to our attention another connection that I had not realized: Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan. As Sam Stein reports, Glenn is targeting Democratic state House candidate Toni Sessoms with robocalls that use the word "homosexual" ten times: Liberal Democratic lawyer and openly homosexual statehouse candidate Toni Sessoms, doesn't share... MORE >