Mike Huckabee

Huckabee Gets No Love From the Right

When he was running for president, Mike Huckabee made no secret of his displeasure with the current leadership of the Religious Right, regularly chiding them for refusing to support his candidacy.  It was, at least in part, because of their glaring lack of support that Huckabee’s campaign eventually folded, forcing him to drop-out of the race and it looks as if Huckabee is not particularly prepared to let bygones be bygones:

Mike Huckabee can't definitively explain why he couldn't win the Republican presidential nomination, but he thinks the desire of Christian leaders to be "kingmakers," media coverage and Mother Nature all had something to do with it.

"Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not," the former Arkansas governor says. "Let's face it, if you're not going to be king, the next best thing is to be the kingmaker. And if the person gets there without you, you become less relevant."

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson backed Rudolph W. Giuliani; American Value President and former presidential hopeful Gary Bauer endorsed Sen. John McCain; and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins remained neutral, even as Mr. Huckabee was wowing their supporters and winning the values voter straw polls they organized.

Huckabee seems particularly galled by Religious Right’s allegations that he was weak on foreign policy issues and didn’t fully comprehend to threat posed to this country by “Islamo-fascism,” which he says was nonsense since he was the only one who really understood the true nature of the threat:

 

"I was the one person who talked about this being a theological war, not just a geopolitical war [because] it was unlike a traditional war over borders and boundaries," he says.

 

While Huckabee remains bitter over his inability to win over the Right’s current leadership, it appears as if various other right-wing outsiders are equally bitter over the prospect of having to support John McCain and are considering defecting to the Constitution Party:

[I]is 2008 the year when a third-party candidate would find some traction among those disaffected by the abortion, marriage and national security stances found in the records of the three front-runners left in the race?

Charles Lewis, national outreach director for Christian Exodus, is one of those behind the launch of the new Save America Summit website, and believes it's not only time, it's overdue.

Among those participating in this third-party-seeking Save America Summit are Flip Benham, Wiley Drake, Bill Federer, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Howard Phillips, Chris Simcox, as well as representatives of organizations such as Gun Owners of America, the Council for National Policy, and Stop the ACLU and others who are convinced that McCain, Obama, and Clinton all plan "an EU-style unification of America with socialist Canada and Mexico during the next administration."

Sadly for Huckabee, he can't seem to get any love from these right-wing activists either, since they seem to have already narrowed down their choices for president to four people: Alan Keyes, Roy Moore, Jerome Corsi, and former Sen. Bob Smith.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Pretend to Join 'Em

With the passing of right-wing luminaries such as Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy in recent months, coupled with the aging of many of the Right’s traditional leaders, the movement itself appears to be in flux and some are getting worried about just what will become of it in the future.  Just last week, James Dobson voiced these concerns while addressing the National Religious Broadcasters Convention:

“It causes me to wonder who will be left to carry the banner when this generation of leaders is gone. The question is, will the younger generation heed the call? Who will defend the unborn child in the years to come? Who will plead for the Terri Schiavos of the world? Who’s going to fight for the institution of marriage, which is on the ropes today.”

The emerging conventional wisdom is that the Religious Right is on the verge of being replaced by a “new evangelical” movement that shares the old-guard’s opposition to gays and abortion, but also cares about issues like poverty and the environment.  The standard-bearer of this “new breed” is Mike Huckabee who, as he puts it, drinks “a different kind of Jesus juice” than the traditional leaders and routinely says things like this

I don’t see [the right-wing movement] going into decline. I see it going into a maturing process. I think the issues are going to broaden and force Evangelicals to expand their horizons of concerns to poverty, disease, issues of education and homelessness. These are issues that I think are going to become increasingly important along with the environment as part of an overall focus that you’re going to see from - I would use a broader term - values voters - that would include not only Evangelicals but also Catholics and conservative Jewish voters as well.

Of course, just because a bunch of young upstarts think that caring about the environment is important doesn’t mean that the old-guard has any interest in broadening their agenda.  As we noted last year, when the National Association of Evangelicals started to voice concerns about the environment and global warming, right-wing stalwarts like Dobson, Tony Perkins, Don Wildmon, Gary Bauer, Rick Scarborough, and Paul Weyrich dashed off an angry letter essentially demanding that the NAE fire its own Vice President over it.

The NAE didn’t back down, but the Right didn’t give up.  Instead, they formed their own organization, the American Environmental Coalition, and now seek "to bring balance to the debate by being an alternative source of reliable information to Americans who seek the best way forward for our country.” 

Fighting It Out on the Pages of WND

Just because Mike Huckabee has dropped out of the presidential race doesn’t mean Janet Folger is done campaigning for him, penning an open letter to John McCain urging him to tap Huckabee as his VP:

I'm not telling you whom to pick, but if you want the vice presidential candidate who in addition to winning the "must win" states in the primary, who has the best cost/vote ratio, who has proven he can energize the base of the party, who defended (not attacked) you even before you won the nomination, who is honest, consistent and according to Rasmussen, has the least opposition among American voters, Mike Huckabee is your guy.

Ask him, I'm sure he would be honored to be your vice president, and I'm sure millions more would be honored to vote for you if you do.

While Folger has already made peace with her principles by deciding to throw her support behind McCain, her one-time comrade-in-arms Gordon Klingenschmitt is having none of it, taking to the pages of WorldNetDaily to chastise Folger for selling out:

In a recent WND column, Janet Folger begs social conservatives to vote for John McCain. She believes McCain will rescue "most everyone" from our political "burning building" – when in fact McCain has already locked arms with the Kennedys, Feingolds and liberal Democrats to keep social conservatives "out" of politics while they burn our constitutional republic to the ground.

McCain not only refused to participate in Janet Folger's Values Voter Presidential Debate, he has repeatedly distanced himself from religious groups. He won the Republican nomination without faith-based voters. So, if he wins the White House, will he suddenly listen to our pleas? No chance! Only by treating ourselves with respect can we demand respect from others. Have we no dignity?

Klingenschmitt and Folger have a long history together, as she was one of his staunchest defenders when he was fighting to keep his job as a Chaplain in the Navy, with Folger regularly citing Klingenschmitt’s legal fight as evidence of the on-going “criminalization of Christianity."

After being discharged from the Navy, Klingenschmitt linked up with Vision America’s Rick Scarborough and Alan Keyes for their “70 Weeks To Save America Crusade” and then quickly lined up to support Keyes’ own vanity run for President (he’s currently listed at the top of the “Honor Roll” on Keyes’ website for his efforts to secure 104 pledges to support his campaign.)  

But it looks as if now Klingenschmitt and Folger are on the outs.  In fact, it looks like Klingenschmitt is on the outs with the Republican Party altogether, announcing that Keyes is reportedly leaving the GOP and that he intends to follow suit so that he may “continue to support Dr. Keyes wherever he leads our Exodus”:

Abandon McCain's sinking ship! Man your lifeboats! I cannot violate my conscience in November. I'll make a statement with my vote, instead of wasting it on Clinton, Obama or McCain. Faith-minded people cannot tolerate evil, whatever its degree, since Christ taught us, "Be ye perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect." Show some self-respect and have faith in God. America needs principled leaders who have borne the battle for liberty and are unashamed of the wounds received in doing so. I'll vote for Alan Keyes, writing in his name if necessary. Join us, and someday you'll stand before God with your head held high, blameless and unashamed of your vote.

The Confusing Rick Scarborough

Say what you want about Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, but when the man sets his mind to something, he sticks with it … at least until he’s had a chance to think about it and then changes course.  

From his inability to decide whether he liked Alexandra Pelosi's documentary “Friends of God” to his ill-fated and seemingly defunct “70 Weeks to Save America Crusade,”  Scarborough has a remarkable ability to announce grand plans one week only to watch them quickly collapse and to make bold declarations only to turn around a short time later and say the exact opposite.

For example, as part of his “70 Weeks" campaign, Scarborough planned on traveling Iowa in order to generate support for Mike Huckabee but had to reevaluate once his partner, Alan Keyes, decided to run for President.  So then Scarborough scrambled to put together a different tour with fellow Huckabee-supporter Janet Folger, but then that folded due to mechanical and weather problems.  

While many of the problems plaguing Scarborough’s operations appear to be beyond his control, his efforts to make an impact heading into November probably aren’t being helped by his tendency to constantly change his mind about just what those efforts ought to entail.

Back when the pundits were declaring Rudy Giuliani a lock for the Republican nomination, Scarborough was having none of it, declaring

And we should be ready to go outside the Republican Party if it refuses to give us such a candidate. Christians must always remember that we are followers of Christ, not pawns of a party which often wants to dance with us before the election but then ditches us right after the final vote count.

But then, when his allies on the Right started to suggest that they might actually ditch the GOP, Scarborough flipped and began chastising them, telling them to “Grow UP!!!”:

I for one do not intend to sit idly by and allow evil to triumph because good men choose to do nothing--or worse, do the wrong thing. I have often said in speeches to churches, “the only thing worse than not voting, is voting without a clue as to what you are voting for.” When it comes time for the ‘08 elections, we must be armed with truth and determined to vote our values. If enough of us do that, we will get a president who will make the right choice when it comes to nominating judges. In ’08, it’s all about the judges! … We may have to hold our nose as we vote in ‘08, but we must and we will vote.

But then, a short while later, Scarborough changed his mind again, proclaiming that his work was not about “winning elections. It’s about honoring Christ”:

“I am not going to cast a sacred vote granted to me by the blood of millions of God-fearing Americans who died on the fields of battle for freedom, for a candidate who says it’s O.K. to kill the unborn,” he said. “I just can’t.”

Shortly thereafter Scarborough signed on with Huckabee’s campaign, and while his efforts in Iowa didn’t quite pan out as planned, he did manage to stump with the candidate in Texas.  But then Huckabee dropped out of the race and Scarborough seemed to have dropped off the radar.  

But today he reappeared to assure us that his position regarding supporting the Republican nominee has now morphed from won’t, to will, to back to won’t, to finally back to will:

My message from now till the election will be--we have a two party system in America for better or worse.  Voting third party in my estimation is a waste of your vote, and we must never forget, every vote is two votes.  You are voting for someone and you are not voting for someone else.  That means that when you vote for someone you know cannot possibly win, you are adding strength to someone who will win and you may be withholding a vote for someone who could have won.

Politics is not church.  In church we search for doctrinal purity as best we understand it, but in politics compromise is often the reasonable solution short of war or division. It is better to get 80 percent of what you desire than to get zero percent--which is what you get when you don't participate or you participate ignorantly.

I cannot tell you how to vote, but I urge you to vote.  I urge you to be mindful that this is still a two party system and you and I must vote for the candidates and the party that best represent our values.  The time to discuss the pros and cons of a third party effort is on November 5th, right after the election, when there is time to actually make a difference.  I pledge to be at that meeting if it’s called, as it appears that both major parties no longer see conservative Christian as an asset--beyond getting their vote.

Do not lose sight of the goals which got us into this arena to start with: to end abortions in America in our lifetime; preserve marriage as the Bible defines it; preserve freedom by saving America as a sovereign and free nation; and increase the Kingdom of God on earth by being lights that shine in the midst of a crooked generation.

I am traveling every day to make that message known.  Later today, I will be speaking in Denver, Colorado.  Am I happy with the current field of candidates? Absolutely not!  But am I going to sit home and sulk?  Absolutely not!  Beyond the presidency there are U.S. Senate seats, U.S. House seats, state elections and judges to consider, and when the church stays home or acts foolishly everyone loses.

Scarborough prides himself on being a “Christocrat” who is not beholden to the Republican Party.  And nothing demonstrates that commitment to principle like incessantly waffling on whether or not to continue to support the GOP, and then deciding to do so while vaguely threatening to consider a third party option … but only, of course, after the election is over.  

Slow and Steady

Slowly but surely, John McCain has been racking up endorsements from Religious Right leaders.  Aside from scoring big with the likes of John Hagee and Rod Parsely, McCain has also been securing endorsements from figures like Gary Bauer and even Janet Folger.  

At the same time, he is busy conducting outreach to many others, addressing the Council for National Policy and having some surrogates drop hints that he’d love the opportunity meet with James Dobson while sending out others to try and win over people like Tony Perkins.

And while the efforts appear to be paying off, it seems as if McCain still has a lot of work ahead of him:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) must work hard to reach out to evangelical voters to get them “excited” about his candidacy, a leading social conservative figure said Wednesday.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said a number of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s policies and actions in the Senate have rubbed socially conservative evangelical voters the wrong way, and he will need them and their “enthusiasm” to win the White House.

“It’s not automatic,” Perkins said.

Perkins suggested several approaches McCain can take to woo a crowd that might feel dissatisfied after supporting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and watching him drop out of the race.

McCain should “hold the Bush line” on banning federal funding for stem cell research, announce that he will appoint a “family czar” to show his commitment to families and be more vocal about his lifelong record opposing abortion rights, Perkins said.

“He’s never led on those issues, and he’s never seemed comfortable talking about those issues,” Perkins said.

But Perkins said McCain has a solid voting record on issues that are dear to socially conservative evangelical voters, and he can use that record as a “foundation” to reach out to them.

“I don’t think that that’s too big a stretch for him, but he’s going to have to work at it,” Perkins said.

Undaunted by the task head, the McCain campaign appears ready to ramp up its effort and fully intends to spend a lot of time wooing them in the months ahead:

Sen. John McCain will be spending a lot of face time in the coming months with top conservative leaders, in an effort to win them over one-by-one, top McCain strategist Charlie Black tells Newsmax.

“You have to go get the conservative leaders who have a following one at a time. [McCain] has been doing for several months, and has some very prominent conservatives on board now… We’re taking them one at a time,” Black told Newsmax this week.

Janet Folger: Sheep

For the last several months, Janet Folger dedicated her life to helping Mike Huckabee try to secure the Republican presidential nomination, hosting the Values Voter Debate where she anointed Huckabee the "David among Jesse’s sons," serving as co-chair of his Faith and Values Coalition, praying for bad weather to keep voter turnout down, and even launching a front-group to attack Mitt Romney and John McCain. All along she warned that Huckabee was the only acceptable candidate in the race and the only one who could keep the Right out of prison while declaring that McCain was unacceptable because he:
Pushed "campaign finance reform" that would put a gag rule on citizen groups like Wisconsin Right to Life, who McCain sued when they suggested people actually contact their senators to let them know how they felt about the filibuster on judicial nominees. He was also one of the gang of 14 who kept the filibuster alive. He also voted against the Marriage Protection Amendment.
Folger made clear that only "sheep" would support McCain, while the principled "shepherds" were intent on backing Huckabee:
We heard the mantra, "A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain!" Interestingly, the same people who said that are now saying, "Don't vote for Huckabee. Vote for McCain!" Really? Support the guy who wants to force us to fund medical experimentation on human beings like Joshua and Rachel Hubbard – who were themselves once frozen embryos. Real human beings. Just older than they were when they were shoved in a freezer and vulnerable to policies like those of Sen. John McCain. Just because someone shoves children in the freezer doesn't mean they're no longer human beings in need of adoption. "Thou shalt not kill" doesn't say "unless they're really small and discarded by people who don't want them." If you found a kid locked in a closet, would you justify performing medical experiments on him before taking his life because he "was going to die if nobody let him out of that closet anyway?" They are rallying to the very guy who wanted a two-month gag rule prior to an election on all of us who want to inform people about what Congress may be doing – like forming a gang (of 14, for example) to block good judicial nominees. Ann Gimenez, whose husband Bishop John Gimenez, a true Christian leader who just went on to his reward, said, "This is not the time to lose our moral compass. Take a stand for righteousness, and don't deviate from it." Good advice. 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.
Well, now that McCain has secured the nomination and Huckabee has dropped out, Folger has suddenly abandoned all her talk of sheep and shepherds and declared that the prudent, principled thing to do is to vote for John McCain:

Huckabee Hears a Who

Mike Huckabee endorsed the Colorado egg-as-person amendment, as that effort seeks to capitalize on upcoming Dr. Seuss film. More on that amendment here.

Huckabee Hopes To Lure McCain With Debate

For the last few days, Mike Huckabee has been trying to pressure John McCain into one last debate as he tries to make one last stand in the Republican primary, going so far as to officially challenge McCain to a “Lincoln Douglas-style debate":

“Now that the race for the Republican nomination is down to just the two of us, I believe this is the time for a real discussion about our vision for the future of this great country,” Huckabee wrote in the letter to Sen. McCain.  “I encourage you to join me in a Lincoln Douglas-style debate so that voters can better understand our views on critical issues such as health care, education, energy independence, terrorism and national security.”

When McCain said that wasn’t going to happen, Huckabee upped the pressure, announcing that he had agreed to participate in a “Values Voter Presidential Debate” next week, provided that McCain joined him:

Former Arkansas Governor and Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee accepted an invitation to participate in a Values Voter Presidential Debate to be held on Monday, March 3, 2008.  Huckabee received the invitation on Wednesday, February 27, for the debate which would also include Senator John McCain, Congressman Ron Paul. [sic]

"I look forward to discussing the issues that are important to the people of America such as health care, education, energy independence, terrorism and national security," Huckabee wrote in his letter of acceptance.  "I will clear my schedule to make time for this important debate, provided Sen. McCain participates, otherwise we will keep our current campaign schedule."

On Tuesday, Huckabee challenged Sen. McCain to a Lincoln- Douglas Style debate, but has yet to receive an acceptance from Sen. McCain.

The Values Voter debate is scheduled to be held at the Marriott Riverwalk, 711 E. Riverwalk St. in San Antonio, Tex.

Will McCain take the bait?  Not if he is smart. 

So far, the only mention of this “Values Voter Presidential Debate” is contained in Huckabee’s press release, but it is presumably being organized by the same people who put on the last Values Voter Presidential Debate, which in many ways catapulted Huckabee from a second-tier no-name into a serious candidate, thanks mainly to the fact that all the actual front-runners refused to appear.

Of course, that didn’t stop the bevy of right-wing activists from criticizing the no-shows, McCain included, via pointed questions addressed to empty podiums:

The entire debate was the brainchild of Janet Folger, who personally invited the choir that performed their infamous rendition of “Why Should God Bless America?” and has since gone on to serve as co-chair of Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition.  Recently, she’s been traveling with his campaign in Ohio, introducing him at events and praying that a blizzard strikes the state in order to depress turnout of McCain supporters.  In between these official campaign duties, Folger has also been busy working with her front-group, RoeGone.org, producing ads blasting McCain.  

It is no wonder that Huckabee would eagerly jump at the chance to participate in one last debate, especially one organized by one of his most vocal supporters and his rival’s most vocal critics.  But why Huckabee thinks McCain would be willing to walk into such an ambush completely defies explanation.  

Huckabee’s Last Stand

While Mike Huckabee prepares for what may be his final stand in Texas, John McCain continues to make in-roads with some of the Religious Right leaders who purport to represent the values that Huckabee seeks to give voice to.

For instance, McCain recently received the endorsement of Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, a one-time Romney backer, is getting advice from one-time Fred Thompson supporter Richard Land, and has Sen. Sam Brownback out there wooing others on his behalf:

Brownback said his task remains crucial, even as the departure of other contenders has cleared the way for McCain to become the Republican party’s nominee. Many evangelical voters are still attracted to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and McCain cannot risk alienating a group that makes up about a third of the conservative voter base.

Earlier this month, Brownback met with Gary Bauer after the conservative Christian power broker endorsed McCain to discuss “what else might be done” to help McCain with social conservatives. He’s also had similar conversations with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Frank Pavone, head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life.  

But that doesn’t mean that Huckabee is willing to throw in the towel or go quietly.  In fact, he seems to be making a last-ditch effort to highlight what he perceives as the key difference between himself and McCain by comparing abortion to slavery after meeting with James Dobson, throwing his support behind Colorado’s “egg as a person” constitutional Human Life Amendment, and daring McCain to debate him on the issues.

And while Huckabee is busy getting pastors involved in his efforts in Texas, he’s also campaigning in Ohio where he is being introduced by Janet Folger, who continues to release anti-McCain ads via her “RoeGone.org” front group (or, as her website mistakenly spells it, “John McCaine.”)  

For her part, Folger has picked up on Huckabee’s hope for a brokered convention by saying that “Gov. Mike Huckabee doesn't need to reach 1,191 delegates to win the nomination – all he has to do is keep John McCain from doing so.”  In fact, a brokered convention seems to be becoming the Huckabee campaign’s main goal

Huckabee's press secretary Alice Stewart said he is in the race for the long haul. "The race isn't over until someone receives 1,191 delegates, and no one has received that yet," Stewart said. "If he were to drop out he would basically be telling all those people in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, North Carolina and all the states that haven't had their primaries or caucuses yet that their votes don't matter. It's certainly possible to bring this all the way to a brokered convention and have it decided in Minneapolis."

According to a CNN news scorecard McCain has 971 delegates, Mitt Romney — who dropped out of the race — holds 286 delegates, Huckabee has 233 and Ron Paul holds 16 delegates. As of Feb. 19, the report showed 1,506 Republican delegates have declared their presidential preference, which leaves 874 up for grabs.

Lori Viars, a Warren County delegate and Huckabee supporter, said she likes her man's chances at a convention showdown because she believes delegates who currently support Romney will cross over to Huckabee.

While it is understandable that at this point in the primaries, the Huckabee campaign would have little choice but to pin its hopes on simply preventing McCain from securing the required number of delegates, what makes them think that, were they to head into Minneapolis, a brokered GOP convention would choose Huckabee as the nominee?  

After all, if Huckabee was popular enough among the GOP insiders who make up the convention, he wouldn’t have had to run his entire campaign whining about why they won’t support him and complaining about conspiracies.  In fact, if Huckabee could win the support of the Republican Party’s rank-and-file, he wouldn’t be getting crushed in the delegate count in the first place.  

And considering that Huckabee served as the chief anti-Romney attack dog, it is highly unlikely that his delegates at the convention would suddenly decide to support the one candidate whose primary role in the race seemed to be to undermine Romney’s electoral chances at every turn.

Why Can't Janet Spell?

Mike Huckabee supporter Janet Folger's "RoeGone" front group, apparently unaware of how to spell "McCain," unveils new ads targeting “John McCaine.

Huckabee's Future

Politico speculates about what Mike Huckabee will do once his presidential campaign ends: "Just as Reagan did after his ’76 run, Huckabee could step up his presence on the rubber chicken circuit and burnish his policy credentials by writing and offering commentary on the side in advance of another run. Given his near-constant cable news presence, Huckabee also could formalize a more-permanent role on TV — like Buchanan did in between his 1988 and 1992 runs. Should he want to run again, he’d have a nice platform from which to get his message out. But should he decide to capitalize on his affable persona and embrace punditry, he could just stick on the tube. (Or, as Buchanan has proved, he could do both.) Another option would be to create his own political entity, from which he could draw a paycheck (an important factor for a politician who never made much money) and use it to make permanent his presence on the public landscape."

Huckabee’s Two-Fer

Amid a heated battle in the Wisconsin primary this week, Mike Huckabee took some time off for a side trip to the Cayman Islands to earn a little money before returning to the campaign trail, only to be summarily trounced by John McCain in the state’s primary.   

On the heels of this loss, Huckabee beat a path down to Texas where he is making a last stand, seemingly realizing that if he cannot win there, he might finally be forced to admit defeat and drop out.    

But just because Texas represents his last hope to keep his campaign alive doesn’t mean he can afford to pass up an opportunity to head to Colorado to make some money and, more importantly, meet privately with James Dobson:

Despite continuing to battle rival John McCain in his up hill battle for the Republican nomination, Mike Huckabee will be dropping off the campaign trail today to give his second paid speech in a week, Fox News has learned.

The former Arkansas governor will be speaking to the annual retreat for the Colorado-based group, Leadership Program of the Rockies, event organizers tell Fox.  Leadership staffers, nor the campaign would reveal the amount he will be paid for the speech. He will also be meeting behind closed doors with Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson, who recently endorsed Huckabee. It will be an informal meeting at the organization’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, according to Dobson aides.

Can Huckabee Endorse McCain?

To hear Mike Huckabee tell it, he is not staying in the presidential race to boost his profile, or out of vanity, or just because he has nothing better to do; it’s because he has principles and convictions that won’t let him step aside and refuses to bow to the "smug, elitist, arrogant attitude" of those in the GOP who feel he should step aside and allow the coronation of John McCain as the nominee.  As Huckabee repeatedly states, he is staying in the until McCain has won the 1,191 delegates he needs to lock up the nomination, even though it is mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win the nomination himself and his only hope is for a brokered convention.  

While McCain has won the last five Republican primaries by an average of 55% to 29% and continues to inch closer to the magic number, Huckabee continues to insist that he will not drop out,, claiming that he is playing an important role by ensuring that voices of the GOP’s right-wing voters “aren't shut out” and vowing to soldier on so that Republican voters can be given a “choice”:  

“One of the questions I get asked everyday…is why do you keep going? And I know that’s a question [to which] people try to come up with their own answers. And some have even suggested the reason I keep going is maybe just some ego trip. Let me assure you,” Huckabee said to reporters, “if it were ego, my ego doesn’t enjoy getting these kind of evenings where we don’t win the primary elections.”

“So, it’s gotta be something other than that, and it is. It’s about convictions, it’s about principles that I dearly, dearly believe in. It’s about believing that the message of pro life – standing firm and unflinchingly for a human life amendment – is an important discussion we must have in our Republican party and frankly must have in our nation.”

“We’re going to keep marching on, not just because of nothing else to do, but primarily because there is a message that still needs to be heard in this country, there are people who have a right to vote, there are states who have patiently waited while other states have gone in front of them, and they should have as much of a voice the process of selecting the nominee as have the states that win early.”

Of course, when voters have such a “choice” and continue to “choose” your opponent by overwhelming margins, most politicians see the writing on the wall and drop out.  But not Huckabee, who apparently believes that he must remain in the race because McCain is so insufficiently conservative that he is endangering the Republican Party as a whole: 

Those principles include giving as many voters as possible the chance to vote for a candidate with positions he feels are at odds with John McCain. “[McCain] does not support for example the human life amendment. He does support human embryonic stem cell research and I know our positions on immigration are significantly different,” listed Huckabee, adding, “doesn’t mean that his positions are bad, it means they’re different, and elections are about choices.”

"Not staying in the race hurts the GOP," he said. "It makes it like we're so weak that we can't have a debate and discussion. If this party is so completely incapable of discussing the issues that matter deeply to Republicans, then I'm not its problem. Its problem is that it doesn't have a message that it can run on and it wants to circle the wagons and act like it's all well. It's not all well."

Of course, the GOP is not really having a debate or discussion about these issues at all – Huckabee is talking about them while the McCain campaign is all but ignoring him on his way to winning primary after primary.  

So the question remains:  if Huckabee needs to stay in the race in order to save the Republican Party from itself and its voters from the dangers of a McCain nomination, will he actually endorse McCain once he has officially secured the nomination?  

Undoubtedly he will, since most of this is just self-serving rhetoric designed to make his continue presence in the race seem like a principled stand.  But if we are to take his rhetoric at face value, it stands to reason that if Huckabee believes that he must stay in the race because McCain does not represent the Republican Party’s core “principles,” then, as the self-proclaimed representative of those very principles, he would be expected to stand on them and refuse to endorse McCain at all.  

Either McCain is so unacceptable a Republican nominee that Huckabee feels he cannot in good conscience simply stand aside (in which case, how could he ever endorse him?) or McCain is a perfectly acceptable candidate that Huckabee will be only too happy to endorse (in which case, why is he still in the race?)

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.

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Mike Huckabee Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 12/15/2010, 7:10pm
Right Wing Watch In Focus: Meet the Leadership: Corporate America and the Religious Right’s New Team in the House. Ben Dimiero @ County Fair: Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science. Nick Wing @ Huffington Post: Jon Kyl: Harry Reid Would 'Disrespect' Christmas By Extending Senate Session. Steve Benen: What Jim DeMint considers 'sacrilegious'. Ian Millhiser @ Think Progress: Cuccinelli’s Anti-Health Reform Argument Has A George Washington Problem. Candace Chellew-Hodge @ Religion Dispatches: Irony Thick in Bush Interview with... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 12/15/2010, 11:21am
Last week when Jeremy Hooper discovered that the Family Research Council was planning to roll out a campaign fighting back against the Southern Poverty Law Center's designation of the organization as an anti-gay hate group, we noted that FRC was asking people to sign on to the campaign to "stand in solidarity with Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women of America, National Organization for Marriage, Liberty Counsel and other pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family." By doing so, we pointed... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 12/14/2010, 6:32pm
For some reason, Michael Steele thinks he has a chance of getting re-elected as Chairman of the RNC.  Good luck with that. Want to spend ten minutes listening to Mike Huckabee talk about playing bass guitar?  Well, you are in luck. Anti-choice activists have big plans for when Republicans take over state legislatures. Focus on the Family is airing its interview with George W. Bush and it was surprisingly dull. Finally, the American Decency Association reports that "shoppers are appalled at the eroticism portrayed" by Victoria's Secret, including... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 12/14/2010, 10:36am
Mike Huckabee Religious Right: LGBT activists call on Huckabee to break ties with Lou Engle (Advocate, 12/13). 2012: Believes he is best prepared to “bring in ethnic voters than most Republicans” (National Journal, 12/13). Obama: Says the President was “amateurish,” less difficult to defeat in 2012 than Republican opponents (National Journal, 12/8). Sarah Palin Haiti: Travels to Haiti with Franklin Graham, Greta van Susteren (CBS News, 12/13). Foreign affairs: Plans trips to Israel and UK, wants to meet Margaret Thatcher (NY Post, 12/9). Ron Paul WikiLeaks:... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 12/08/2010, 6:39pm
What does Liberty University have in common with companies like Microsoft and Google?  A AA rating which allowed it to raise $120 million through the sale of bonds yesterday. Al Mohler says that claims that Jesus will return on May 21, 2011 is an "embarrassment" to the Christian Church. Ralph Reed says President Obama betrayed his principles with the tax cut compromise. Of course, Reed exploited his Christian allies on behalf of Jack Abramoff and gambling interests.  Mike Huckabee is still mad that he gets pigeonholed as the "faith candidate.... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 12/07/2010, 10:27am
Newt Gingrich 2012: Cillizza profiles Gingrich’s closest aides as he readies possible bid (The Fix, 12/6). Iowa: Gingrich’s “American Solutions” donated $107,500 to Iowa politicians and state GOP (US News, 12/3). Immigration: Voices support for immigration reform to conservative Latino convention (Politico, 12/2). Mike Huckabee 2012: Seriously considers bid as Iowa and South Carolina polls look favorable to candidacy (Politico, 12/6). Religious Right: Defends FRC from “hate group” label, asks if “60 percent of America is a hate group?... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 12/06/2010, 6:33pm
Mike Huckabee responds to the SPLC designation of FRC as a hate group: "Does that mean that that 60 percent of America is a hate group?" Bob Vander Plaats discusses the Iowa judicial retention campaign with Focus on the Family. Gary Bauer says the attempted terrorist attack in Portland, Oregon was a "little late to the war on Christianity. Radical Islam’s secular enablers have been driving Christianity from the public square for decades." Leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox,... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 12/06/2010, 11:33am
Ever since losing the Republican primary to John McCain in 2008, Mike Huckabee has repeatedly been asked if he plans to make another run for the White House in 2012.  And his answer has always been the same: "I don't know.  Maybe." As Huckabee made clear during his last try, he is not independently wealthy and actually had to take breaks from campaigning in order to deliver paid speechs in order to have any sort of income.  He's now got several different projects that provide a nice living, but he'd have to give them up if he decided to run for president and once... MORE >