Arkansas

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.

What's Huck Hiding?

Hanna Rosin chronicles her attempts to track down tapes of Mike Huckabee's sermons, only to constantly be assured that while there is "nothing to hide" she won't be allowed to hear them: "Thus began my long-distance treasure hunt in rural Arkansas. Since I did not cover the 1992 Clinton campaign, Arkansas rules are foreign to me. I learned pretty quickly that the pastor is like the drug lord: Everyone protects him, and there's a price to pay if you don't."

Does Mitt Romney Know About This?

Mike Huckabee’s campaign rolls on, though he seems either unwilling or unable to branch out beyond his Religious Right base of support:

Huckabee surprised by winning the Iowa caucus, but has little money and finished a distant fourth in Florida.

The former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher was in Newport Beach for a fundraiser at a supporter's home before traveling to Los Angeles for an Americans of Faith event and to Simi Valley for the GOP presidential debate.

Americans of Faith, which seems to be going by the name Operation Vote nowadays, was founded back in 2004 to register and mobilize 5 million Christian voters by Jay Sekulow, who just so happens to be Chair of Romney’s Faith and Values Steering Committee, as well as a member of Romney’s Advisory Committee On The Constitution And The Courts.

The Passion of the Religious Conservatives
1 May 2004
National Journal

Several prominent evangelical-movement leaders, as well as businessmen, social conservatives, and other like-minded believers, have put together ambitious voter-registration efforts that aim to get the Christian faithful to the polls on Election Day. Though nominally nonpartisan, these "ground- war" efforts are expected to benefit Republicans far more than Democrats because of such hot-button issues for conservatives as gay marriage and abortion.

One effort is being run by Americans of Faith, a Virginia-based tax-exempt group that is co-chaired by Bush fundraising "Pioneer" Edward Atsinger, who is president of Salem Communications, the nation's largest Christian radio broadcaster; and Jay Alan Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit launched by Pat Robertson that champions religious causes.

"I've been talking about this for the last 10 years," Sekulow said. "Evangelicals haven't been good participants in elections. We're talking about Christian civic participation." Americans of Faith hopes to raise about $800,000 and will use the Internet, Christian radio, and music festivals, as well as churches and other venues, to try to reach its goal of registering 2 million new voters from the conservative Christian community in time for the November election.

Giving extra firepower to evangelicals, the group's board includes such well-known leaders as Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council in Washington, and Frank Wright, the head of the National Religious Broadcasters.

According to a 2004 Talon News article, Americans of Faith’s Board of Directors includes, in addition to Sekulow and Perkins, the likes of Richard Land, Mike Farris, and David Barton. 

While Farris has endorsed Huckabee and Barton has been sharing the stage with him in recent weeks, Land and Perkins have been conspicuously cold toward his campaign - and considering that the organization’s founder is a key backer of Huckabee’s main rival, it is odd that Huckabee would be invited to address an Americans of Faith event, especially since the longer he stays in the race, the more damage he does to Romney.  

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.

Is the Right Secretly Endorsing Romney?

Last week on Time’s Swampland blog, Michael Scherer took notice of Focus on the Family Action’s post-South Carolina primary political analysis and observed that, despite the fact that those involved have all refused to endorse any candidate, they certainly seemed to have a favorite candidate:
The video about Rudy Giuliani suggests that the former New York mayor would appoint a judge who would uphold Roe v. Wade, and knocks him for dressing in drag on Saturday Night Live. The video on John McCain hits the Arizona senator for campaign finance reform, his opposition to the federal marriage amendment and his 2000 comments about Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. "You want someone to depend on when you are in a fight, and you never really know where he is going to be," says Perkins about McCain in the video. This is all to be expected. But then it gets controversial. The video on Mike Huckabee, who is the overwhelming favorite among the nation's evangelical voters, is surprisingly harsh. After praising Huckabee's social views, both Perkins and Tom Minnery, a policy expert at Focus on the Family, hammer the former Arkansas governor for his foreign policy views. Minnery suggests that Huckabee does not understand the cause for which American troops are dying in Iraq. Then Perkins suggests that Huckabee lacks the fiscal and national security credentials needed for a conservative presidential candidate. "The conservatives have been successful in electing candidates, and presidents in particular, when they have had a candidate that can address not only the social issues, [but] the fiscal issues and the defense issues," says Perkins. "[Huckabee] has got to reach out to the fiscal conservatives and the security conservatives." Ouch. So what about Romney? He comes up roses. "He has staked out positions on all three of the areas that we have discussed," says Perkins. "I think he continues to be solidly conservative." Then Minnery defends Romney from criticism that he is too polished and smooth. "Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith," Minnery adds. "But on the social issues we are so similar."
Scherer went on to note that Mat Staver, a Huckabee backer, complained that the analysis of Huckabee was “lacking objectivity and context” and, shortly thereafter, Focus on the Family Action went back and re-edited the video to include more praise for Huckabee’s stand on social issues. Scherer concluded logically that this could amount to a “stealth endorsement” of Romney, but Tom Minnery, of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council both insist that it is nothing of the sort:
First of all, rest assured that we have not been endorsing any candidates, either “stealthily” or otherwise. Our comments are what they are — a review of what the candidates, both Democrat and Republican, are saying on issues we think Christians care about. … Last Saturday night, after the polls closed in South Carolina, I joined our friends at Focus on the Family Action in a live web cast discussion of the election returns. My comments about each of the presidential candidates were excerpted for home page clips on the Focus Action web site. The interpretation being given to those comments by some is just wrong. I have not endorsed any candidate for the White House and have no plans to do so.
They may deny that they are supporting Romney, but seeing as James Dobson and his ilk have already ruled out the possibility of supporting John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, and refuse to back Mike Huckabee, the process of elimination and their own rhetoric suggests that Romney is indeed their candidate of choice.

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.

Neo-Confederate Behind Pro-Huckabee Flag Ads in South Carolina

As in 2000, a belated Civil War battle is being fought in this year’s Republican primary in South Carolina. But if advocates of flying the Confederate battle flag over the state capitol hope to convince people it’s unrelated to racism, they could hardly have a worse spokesman than Ron Wilson.

Ron WilsonWilson is the man behind the eloquently-named Americans for the Preservation of American Culture, which is running radio ads lambasting John McCain and Mitt Romney for their stances on the flag issue while praising Mike Huckabee. Huckabee—who recently expressed his enthusiasm for amending the U.S. Constitution to align with “God’s standards”—said this week that it was a states’ rights matter:

"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," Huckabee said.

According to Wilson, “This is close enough now that this issue is probably going to determine whether McCain wins or Huckabee." Huckabee may appreciate the attack ads on his behalf, but he might want to reconsider.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Wilson is a former member of the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens, both hate groups. His education expertise is limited to the business he ran out of his home selling textbooks to home-schoolers. One of these, Barbarians Inside the Gates, theorized that Jews are working towards world domination — and was specially touted by Wilson's Web site, which insisted, "You MUST READ THIS BOOK."

In his role heading the 32,000-member SCV [Sons of Confederate Veterans], Wilson was part of a takeover attempt by extremists, and led efforts to purge more than 300 members for publicly condemning racism in the SCV.

The SPLC reported in 2002 on the extremist takeover of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as members hoping “to take the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and the skinheads and show them to the door” managed to defeat one white supremacist candidate for leadership in a raucous vote, only to have his close ally, Wilson, elected as a “stealth candidate.”

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."

Pastor in Chief

One of Mitt Romney’s standard talking points when seeking to assure potential evangelical voters who might be concerned about his Mormon faith is that he is running for commander-in-chief, not pastor-in-chief and that his religious views will take a backseat to his Constitutional obligations.  

Not surprisingly, this is not a point being emphasized by Mike Huckabee, who has been explicitly using his faith to win over evangelical voters and differentiate himself from Romney and his Mormonism.  In fact, Huckabee seems to be hoping to become, literally, the nation’s first Pastor in Chief and has been regularly delivering sermons around the nations, especially in churches in primary states:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tiptoed around any mention of his run for the Republican presidential nomination. And the ex-Baptist minister assured 5,000 members of First Spartanburg North Baptist that that he'd come to their church Sunday to give a sermon, not a speech.

But if church protocol forbade Huckabee from overtly asking for their votes in South Carolina's hotly contested GOP primary on Saturday, he still managed to court them in code.

At the 9:30 a.m. service and again ate 10:50, preacher Huckabee talked about his ties to past Southern Baptist leaders, read a passage from Luke's Gospel, led the congregation in bowed-head, eyes-closed prayer, even mentioned the day he accepted Jesus — it was at Vacation Bible School, when he was 10 years old.

In other words, Huckabee said without having to say it: Unlike those other guys on the ballot, I'm one of you.

Huckabee has delivered sermons in Arkansas, Texas (in San Antonio, Irving, and Plano,) in New Hampshire, and Michigan. In both South Carolina and Michigan, Huckabee also sought to mobilize pastors to get out the vote in support of his campaign:

"I'm not going to ask you to get up in your pulpit and use your pulpit to endorse me, because I think the only person you ought to endorse from your pulpit is Jesus, and you don't need to endorse me there," Huckabee said at this morning's pastor's breakfast.

"But most of you have email lists or phone call lists or you have – as an individual, you are unrestricted in what you do as an individual, not using the facilities or the nuances of your church, but as an individual because you've got great influence.

"And I'm asking you to help get people to think about this election…in terms of direction of where this country's going to go and whether or not it's going to be led by people who share that Judeo-Christian value and ethic or whether they do not."

Huckabee sees his campaign, as the Washington Post put it, “chance for evangelical Christians to lead the Republican Party rather than just support its candidates.”  And should he end up in the White House, it looks like Huckabee would be open to carrying on his tradition of delivering Sunday sermons:   

It is also no accident that less than a week before the primary, Huckabee chose one of the largest congregations in upstate South Carolina, where he will need a significant evangelical turnout to win.

The more interesting question is this: What does it mean for America to have president who continues to semi-privately preach his personal religious views? At a press conference Sunday afternoon, Huckabee said he would be open to delivering sermons as president, even though he acknowledged it would be logistically tough.

You can get a sense of Huckabee’s sermons from these remarks he made to the “Iowa Renewal Project's Pastors and Pews Dinner” in June, where he claimed to be speaking “pastor to pastor” as he urged those in attendance to be active in politics because “pastors cannot be AWOL when it comes to establishing what is right, what is wrong, and what will make the difference in this country to establish the boundaries of good, decent, Godly living”

Reports of Huckabee’s Moderation Are Greatly Exaggerated

Running as a “Christian Leader” was enough to proper Mike Huckabee to victory in Iowa, but it didn’t play too well in New Hampshire, where he finished a distant third.  

So what is his plan going forward?

Republican Mike Huckabee is trying to soften the image of the religious right as he reaches out to liberal Christians and blue-collar workers for support in his presidential campaign.

It's a delicate balancing act for the ordained Baptist minister who staunchly opposes abortion and gay marriage.

But the folksy southerner told Reuters he believed some evangelicals had widened their political concerns beyond the hot-button cultural issues that helped put George W. Bush in the White House and had mellowed enough to embrace causes like poverty and the environment.

Huckabee, who won the first presidential nominating contest in Iowa with the support of evangelicals and placed third in New Hampshire on Tuesday, wants to help bridge that divide.

"Unquestionably there is a maturing that is going on within the evangelical movement. It doesn't mean that evangelicals are any less concerned about traditional families and the sanctity of life," the former Arkansas governor said.

"It just means that they also realize that we have real responsibility in areas like disease and hunger and poverty and that these are issues that people of faith have to address," he said in an interview aboard his campaign bus.

Presumably, any effort to soften his image or reach out beyond his right-wing religious base will have to wait until he gets back from this

Together for Life Memorial Service and Walk, Georgia's annual pro-life gathering, will be held Tuesday, January 22, 2008 on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Memorial Service, sponsored by Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) begins at 11:30 am and is followed by a one-mile long silent walk through downtown Atlanta.

This year's keynote speaker is Gary Bauer, an esteemed author, political activist, and President of American Values. He stated, "We must build an America where all of our children, rich and poor, black and white, are welcomed into the world and protected by the law. Human life has dignity at every age; the taking of innocent human life is always wrong."

Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee will also speak as a strong pro-life advocate and supporter of the Human Life Amendment. "I'm pro-life because I believe life begins at conception, and I believe that we should do everything possible to protect that life because it is the centerpiece of what makes us unique as an American people. We value the life of one as if it's the life of all... it's what separates us from the Islamic jihadists who are out to kill us. They celebrate death. They have a culture of death. Ours is a culture of life." The Georgia Right to Life PAC has endorsed Mike Huckabee for President.

Hijacking the Language of Faith

Yesterday, The Press Register in Alabama ran an op-ed by Randy Brinson entitled “Language of Faith Hijacked.”  In it, Brinson complained that all of the talk of faith in the current presidential election is confusing voters:

In this presidential cycle, nearly every campaign, both Democrat and Republican, has developed a faith outreach component to facilitate communicating to the faithful. The 2008 presidential election will focus on the faith and values of the individual candidates more than any in modern history.

While this may give solace to many faith-oriented political activists, it only makes it difficult for voters to decipher which candidate truly understands the link between personal faith and policy.

Despite this onslaught of personal spirituality, it has been even more difficult for voters to determine whether some of the candidates even understand the particular faith they profess to embrace.

Brinson went on to criticize Barack Obama, saying that his talk of faith, “may be losing the audience he seeks to engage,” and Mitt Romney, questioning “if his Mormon faith guided his present moral convictions, what guided him when he was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights?”

Brinson concluded by seemingly urging these candidates, and presumably others, to focus less on faith and more on “candor, integrity, honesty and character,” as that is what voters are looking for in a candidate.  

Of course, nowhere in the piece does Brinson bother to mention that he has been actively involved in assisting Mike Huckabee:

The Values Voter barnstorm [through Iowa] will be led by Pastor Rick Scarborough, an early Huckabee endorser. Participants include R. Randolph "Randy" Brinson, an iconoclastic social conservative doctor from Alabama who possesses a huge list of Iowa pastors and Christian conservatives. He's also the head of ReedemTheVote, which was active in 2004 and 2006 as a voter registration vehicle for young evangelicals.

As the Washington Post explained last month:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's surge in Iowa, from single digits in the polls to a virtual tie for the lead among Republicans, has captivated the political world and prompted speculation about just how he did it.

The Fix may have found the answer: a physician from Montgomery, Ala., named Randy Brinson.

Brinson is the keeper of a massive e-mail list of much-coveted Christian voters that Huckabee is using to reach and organize people in early-voting states such as Iowa.

Brinson's list numbers about 71 million contacts, with 25 million identified as belonging to "25 and 45 years old, upwardly mobile, right-of-center, conservative households," he said. In other words, a target-rich environment for a candidate such as Huckabee, who is preaching a compassionate conservative message heavily infused with religious sentiment.

In fact, this op-ed appears to be an outgrowth of an email Brinson sent around not too long ago attacking Mitt Romney for … you guessed it, hijacking the language of faith

Brinson wrote an e-mail distributed widely in Iowa that questioned the changed views of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on abortion and gay rights and that asked whether Romney was really being led by his Mormon faith.

Some political commentators have credited that e-mail with being one of several factors that helped turn out conservative Christians for Huckabee.

Brinson said Friday he sent the e-mail because he was concerned that some candidates had "hijacked the language of faith."

Since he’s backing Huckabee, who has made his faith the center of his campaign, Brinson is obviously not worried about political candidates using faith for political purposes.  But like many other religious right activists, he seems to think the “language of faith” is reserved for the “right” kind of “Christian Leader.”

Huckabee A Victim of “Anti-Evangelical Bias”?

As we have noted several times before, Mike Huckabee’s primary campaign strategy to date has been focused almost exclusively on wooing evangelical voters – a strategy that paid off handsomely in Iowa:

Religion played a huge role in Mike Huckabee’s triumph in the Iowa Republican caucuses, though there are some mixed signals for him on the road ahead. On the Democratic side, it was fresh blood — and an outcry for change — that helped propel Barack Obama to his victory in the state.

Eight in 10 Huckabee supporters said they are born again or evangelical Christians, according to an entrance poll for The Associated Press and television networks. Another six in 10 said it was very important to share their candidate’s religious beliefs. In both categories, none of the former Arkansas governor’s opponents came close to that kind of support.

While it seems obvious to most that Huckabee’s success can be directly attributed to his ability to convince Religious Right voters that he is one of them, Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America doesn’t see it that way.  In fact, she rejects that notion all together and instead sees Huckabee’s Iowa victory as evidence of his ability to overcome anti-Evangelical bias among participants in the Republican caucus: 

While 46 percent of Evangelicals voted for Huckabee, more than half of them (54 percent) split their vote among the four other candidates (Romney, McCain, Thompson and Paul). 

Huckabee had to overcome extraordinary anti-Evangelical bias.  The message of Iowa is that anti-Evangelical bias was extraordinary and overwhelming.  Eighty-seven percent of non-Evangelicals voted against Huckabee, whereas only 66 percent of all Iowa Republicans voted against him — an astounding 21 percent gap.  [Exit polls] shows that among those who self-identified as non-Evangelicals, Huckabee finished 4th (behind Romney, Thompson and McCain).  It is significant that Huckabee got only 14% of non-Evangelical votes, while Romney got 19% of the Evangelical vote.

Huckabee was too busy running as a “Christian Leader” to make much of an effort to court non-evangelicals, so his limited support among that group is not surprising and certainly isn’t evidence of any sort of “anti-Evangelical bias.” 

By comparison, Huckabee won the support of a plurality (36%) of self-identified Republicans in Iowa, but only 17% of independents.  According to Crouse’s logic, Huckabee must have also somehow managed to overcome extraordinary anti-Republican bias as well.  

Perkins Slams Efforts at ‘Unity’

A group of Democrats and Republicans, including former Senators such as Jack Danforth, Gary Hart, and Bob Graham, as well as Christine Todd Whitman, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, gathered at the University of Oklahoma today for a forum urging presidential candidates to work to “establish a government of national unity”:  

Today, we come together with hope and determination, with a determination to stop politics as usual which seeks to divide us for political gain.  We come together to resurrect that kind of bipartisan statesmanship that united us as Americans to win the Cold War.  We come together to appeal to all presidential candidates to tell us how they plan to bring us together.  Hear our plea!  Bring us together!

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is having none of it and sees it as an effort to drive so-called “values voters” out of the political process: 

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), says in their zeal to find common ground, the moderates want to jettison social issues from both party platforms and focuses. The FRC leader says the group of moderates "obviously did not get the message from Iowa," where former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee surged ahead because of "his unequivocal stand on core issues."

"I think we've seen in the wake of Iowa and in what's happening across the country that those issues are very near and dear to people," Perkins observes. "Those are issues that motivate people; they vote based on those issues. [And] those issues are important to Americans, not just evangelicals, but value voters make up a wide section of Americans who are concerned about the moral direction of our country."

Polls show that most Americans – including most Republicans and most Christians – don’t share Perkins’ abortion-and-gays political priorities.  But he’s got a point about the power of those issues to motivate a good chunk of the Republican base.  Mike Huckabee just won Iowa where “over 80 percent of [his] supporters self-identified as born-again Christian or evangelical.” 

Or as Perkins explained following Huckabee’s win last week, the GOP’s right-wing base is motivated by wedge issues and will rally around “one of their own” if given the opportunity:  

[E]vangelicals, dispirited by Republican indifference if not outright hostility to their concerns, cast their ballots for candidates who line up with them on their top priority issues (for example, all of the top five finishers contend that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be corrected).

Iowa evangelicals' voting pattern says, "If that is the way we are viewed by the other members of the conservative coalition, we are going with one of our own whom we can trust on our issues." The road ahead will be filled with challenges, but one thing is clear: the values voter turnout has reshaped this presidential campaign in a very good way.

In other words, Perkins seems to be saying, “values voters” aren’t even interested in “unity” with the rest of the conservative movement.  That’s quite a change from what he was telling reporters at the “Values Voter Summit” in October, when he was indirectly dissing Huckabee by repeating Romney’s “three legged stool” formulation that any Republican would need the support of social conservatives, economic conservatives, and foreign policy conservatives to win the White House.

Huckabee’s Faith-Based Campaign

Coinciding with his rise in the polls, Mick Huckabee seems to have developed a two-pronged message that highlights his faith at every opportunity while complaining about the unfair coverage his faith is receiving. 

The first part of this message can be seen on his own campaign website:

My faith is my life - it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.

This theme has been carried over in his ads where he touts himself as a "Christian Leader" and states that "what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ"?  

The flip-side of this faith-based messaging is Huckabee’s tendency to complain, as he started doing a few weeks ago, that he is “being questioned about the details of my faith like no one else” and insisting that the appeal of his campaign is about much more than simply his faith.

Huckabee appears to want to have it both ways: making explicit appeals for electoral support based on his faith and then complaining that he is being unfairly targeted for it.  But as it stands now, it doesn’t seem as if he is willing to forgo the former in order to stop the latter:  

Associated Press   

Huckabee Counts on Pastors for Iowa Help

Republican Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher, is depending on more than a leap of faith to win the Iowa caucuses.

Leading in polls, Huckabee is determined to make up for his skimpy organization in the state by enlisting national evangelical Christian supporters to rev up Iowa pastors and coax voters to the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Word of mouth in churches and among Christian groups can be a powerful force in Iowa politics. Christian believers make up the core of Huckabee's support in the state, said Rick Scarborough, a well-known Texas preacher who has endorsed the former Arkansas governor, though he adds that "it's not his only constituency."

Politico

Huck uses Christmas debate to mobilize base

Mike Huckabee brought Christmas cheer to Iowa on Wednesday, as the newly appointed front-runner gleefully defended his controversial Christmas ad released this week.

“If I had used the name in Jesus Christ in vain and blurted it out as profanity no one would be talking about it,” said the former Arkansas governor. “Because I invoked his name on his own birthday ... somehow everyone sees in it something that isn’t even there. Have we so lost our national soul?”

The hotel, packed with roughly 200 Huckabee supporters, erupted in applause, hollers and Amens.

Touting Christmas is smart strategy for the former preacher, whose evangelical base drinks up the holiday rhetoric as they would a big glass of eggnog. In the evangelical world, the ad strikes back at the so-called “war on Christmas.”

Huckabee’s two-pronged strategy is pretty well summed up in this quote from ABC News:

Does it bother Huckabee that unwillingness to vote for a Mormon is one of the factors helping him?

"You know, it's not something that I agree with," Huckabee says. "But I agree with the final outcome. I just have to believe that there's still a reason that a lot of people are connecting with me and I don't think it's religion."

He may not agree with voters supporting him only because of their own anti-Mormon view, but he’ll take it and just believe it is something else.  

And while he may wish to believe that there is more to his campaign than his appeal to faith, he can’t deny, as he told CBN’s David Brody, that voters driven by “spiritual motivation … certainly represent a broad part of my base.” 

Courting the Right, Deep In The Heart of Texas

It looks as if Mike Huckabee is heading to Texas to raise a bit of money with the help of a few of his right-wing supporters:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has been gaining ground in the Republican presidential primaries, is scheduled to meet campaign donors in Houston today at the Tanglewood home of physician Steve Hotze, a longtime Christian conservative activist. Like other major presidential candidates, Huckabee is making a last dash for Texas cash before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next month. His trip includes a fundraising event in Dallas after his Houston event. Co-hosts for the $500-per-person Houston event include state Rep.Debbie Riddle of Tomball and Texan Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America, which works to mobilize pastors and church congregations for political action.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you are undoubtedly familiar with Rick Scarborough, the self-described “Christocrat” who heads Vision America and has a penchant for suggesting that evangelical leaders are dying off because the nation has turned its back on God, suggesting that Christians will have "the blood of martyrs on [their] hands"if they don't oppose hate crimes legislation, blaming "the church" for just standing by and allowing the election of "unrighteous leaders" in 2006, and saying that opponents of the War in Iraq are committing treason, among other things. Then there is Debbie Riddle, who is perhaps best known for this comment:
"Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it's cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It's not a tender heart. It's ripping the heart out of this country."
And what about Steve Hotze? Well, the Texas Freedom Network discribes him thusly:
Hotze is a prominent leader of anti-abortion, anti-gay and politically active religious political extremism in Houston. Hotze gained prominence while promoting a ‘Straight Slate’ of political candidates in response to Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire’s support from the gay community. Using Christian Coalition tactics of organizing through churches and organizing on the precinct level, Hotze led the religious right’s campaign to take over the Harris County Republican Party from moderate Republicans.
The Houston Press provides a bit more background:
Thin and long-faced, 46-year-old Steven Forrest Hotze has carved out a niche in local politics over the past decade as an unyielding and occasionally strident opponent of abortion and public acceptance of homosexuality. He may not be a household name outside Republican circles, but within the party he is admired by a devout coterie of followers, catered to by secular conservatives and feared by moderates, who find themselves in a position of needing his approval to win nominations in GOP primaries. Those summoned to kiss his ring encounter a tough, uncompromising zealot who is used to getting his own way. ... It's a considerable amount of clout for someone whose stated beliefs place him to the right of the religious right. "If we are to survive as a free nation, and if justice and liberty are to be restored in our land, then biblical Christianity, with its absolutes, must once again be embraced by our citizens," he wrote several years back in a Chronicle op-ed piece. "Only then can we expect to see Christianity's influence once again to be reflected in the laws of our civil government."
According to a separate Houston Press article that suggests that Hotze's medical credentials and views are a bit suspect, he also signed something called the Coalition on Revival's Manifesto for the Christian Church in 1986 that dictated:

• A wife may work outside the home only with her husband's consent • "Biblical spanking" that results in "temporary or superficial bruises or welts" should not be considered a crime • No doctor shall provide medical service on the Sabbath • All disease and disability is caused by the sin of Adam and Eve • Medical problems are frequently caused by personal sin • "Increased longevity generally results from obedience to specific Biblical commands" • Treatment of the "physical body" is not a doctor's highest priority • Doctors have a priestly calling • People receiving medical treatment are not immune from divine intervention or demonic forces • Physicians should preach to their patients because salvation is the key to their health

Give that the vast majority of Huckabee's Religious Right backers are borderline theocrats, it remains to be seen just when, if ever, Huckabee is going to called to account for the types of people with which he is surrounding himself.

Huck’s God Talk

As we noted last week, Mike Huckabee has been complaining that he has been subject to an “unusual level of scrutiny” because of his religious beliefs.  But since his current campaign strategy seem to be largely based around playing up his standing as a “Christian Leader” it only seems fair – even his ideological allies admit as much:

Huckabee sometimes has bristled at questions about whether he would use the presidency to impose his religious views. But even some of Huckabee's longtime friends say he invited such questions by running an ad that promotes him as a Christian leader.

"If a candidate makes his faith a part of his campaign, it is fair game," said Richard Land, who has known Huckabee for 28 years and is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  

So it should come as no surprise to him that people are taking a look at his record and finding this like this:  

"I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."

With that sort of approach to government, it only makes sense that Huckabee would use his use his government position to promote his religion, as he did when he was lieutenant governor – though he had to wait until then Governor Jim Guy Tucker was out of the state to do it:

Clerics, ACLU hit 'Christian' week in Ark.

The Commercial Appeal

3 February 1994

Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee's proclamation of a Christian Heritage Week cheapens and trivializes the true meaning of being a follower of Christ, several theologians said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the proclamation part of a national attempt by the religious right to prove America was founded as a Christian nation, but the group said it will take no action.

Huckabee, acting governor during Gov. Jim Guy Tucker's absence, signed documents in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday declaring the week of Feb. 27 to March 2 Christian Heritage Week in Arkansas. He said he was "somewhat surprised if not startled" that anyone would oppose the action.

"When I took the oath of office in this state, my hand was placed on a Bible, my oath was made, 'so help me God,' the very document we sign here says 'in the year of our Lord,' " Huckabee said. "I don't think any of us need to fear there is some inappropriate action taken when we simply acknowledge that which our forefathers did when they created this country and declared our independence that . . . all men and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights."

Tucker distances self from Christian week

The Commercial Appeal

4 February 1994

Gov. Jim Guy Tucker said he rejected a request to proclaim a Christian Heritage Week but had no authority to stop Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee from doing it.

"We were asked to make such a proclamation several months ago, and I declined to do it because I didn't think government should be in the business of promoting any one religion over the other," Tucker said Thursday.

"This is obviously something Lt. Gov. Huckabee feels very strongly about. But under our state constitution, as we know from painful experience a year ago, the lieutenant governor is free to do what he wants to do."

When the governor of Arkansas is out of the state, the lieutenant governor is acting governor and has all the governor's power.

Christian Heritage Week wasn’t the only time Huckabee invoked God to push his political agenda – in fact he had a tendency to do so on a variety of public policy issues – as he did when he dismissed those who care about the environment:

Keyes Gets Some Love

Overcoming past slights, Alan Keyes will be participating in the the upcoming The Des Moines Register Presidential Debate: "Confirmed candidates for the Republican debate on Wednesday, December 12 are: Ambassador Alan Keyes; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Rep. Duncan Hunter; Arizona Sen. John McCain; Texas Rep. Ron Paul; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo; and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson."

Brand Newt

Newt Gingrich has descended upon the Iowa caucuses again, promoting a “Platform of the American People” –and, incredibly, raising the specter of running for vice president:

The timing of his appearances a month before the Jan. 3 Iowa presidential caucuses is leading political observers to suspect he's angling to be on the short list of running-mates for former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or whoever is the Republican nominee. …

The former House speaker who flirted with a Republican presidential nomination run earlier this year said in a C-SPAN interview on Sunday that he might accept being the presidential nominee's running mate if offered.

"Depending on the circumstances, I'd be honored to be considered and under some circumstances, I'd probably feel compelled to say 'yes,' " said Mr. Gingrich, who says he will work until this summer's presidential nominating conventions "to get both parties to adopt a unity platform on a handful of things they could enact in the first 90 days of 2009."

It was just two months ago that Gingrich’s incipient presidential run was mercifully laid to rest, but some on the Right are apparently holding out hope that the former House speaker will save them, perhaps fondly recalling the “Contract with America” that he put together shortly before the Republicans took control of the House in 1995 and that served as a right-wing rallying cry after the elections.

Of course, a lot has happened since 1995. Gingrich quickly established his lack of popularity—within two years, his favorability rating was at 15 percent. His skills as a political strategist were put to the test as he pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton in the run up to the 1998 elections, which resulted in a devastating loss for Republicans and his stepping down from leadership. Many Americans no doubt remember the hypocrisy of Gingrich prosecuting Clinton for sexual indiscretion while he himself was having an affair.

Gingrich was a key figure in creating the era of highly-polarized politics, but today he is branding himself, ironically, as a seeker of common ground, launching a campaign earlier this year of platitudes (“Real change requires real change,” etc.). Now, the Right is looking to him as its “ideas man,” gushing over his “intellectual heft.” “Newt Gingrich is the intellectual cornerstone of our modern conservative movement," said the American Conservative Union’s William Lauderback at this year’s CPAC.

While such a reputation on the Right may be hard to believe, it may ultimately doom his vice-presidential aspirations; ACU’s David Keene warns that Gingrich’s “articulateness and willingness to speak out on virtually every issue” would put candidates at risk of being “upstag[ed]” by him. That would indeed be embarrassing.

In any event, we’re sure Gingrich is enjoying all the attention, and it brings to mind the words of longtime Gingrich ally Matt Towery after Gingrich announced he wouldn’t seek the presidency. "The question is, around Washington: Was it a scam?”

The Huckabee of Old

Mike Huckabee’s rapid ascent in the polls has come as a surprise to many. It began with his performance and win at the Values Voter Debate, where he assured a bevy of second and third-tier right-wing activists that he was different from the other candidates - for while they simply come “to” them seeking support, he comes “from” them.   

Huckabee rode the wave from the Debate into the Value Voter Summit where he wooed the audience by telling them everything they longed to hear from a presidential candidate and walked away with the majority of votes of those in attendance in the straw poll.

Since then, Huckabee has been racking up endorsements from right-wing figures like Janet Folger, Rick Scarborough, and Tim and Beverly LaHaye and been transformed into a viable front-runner.  

In addition, Huckabee has undoubtedly benefited from the fact that many in the press seem smitten with his affability, humor, and “ah shucks” demeanor – but, as we noted in a report we recently released, they are ignoring his “a long record of rhetoric and actions that reveal an ideologue’s agenda and a zealot’s intolerance for differing opinions.”

For example, in this recent profile of Huckabee, the New York Times undertook no real investigation of any of Huckabee’s past work or inflammatory remarks, stating simply:

Mr. Huckabee served as Mr. [James] Robison’s announcer, advance man and public relations representative, drumming up attendance and coverage for his prayer meetings and appearing on broadcasts. (The organization was based near Dallas, which is how Mr. Huckabee came to work on the 1980 Reagan rally). Mr. Robison could be harsh — he yelled in the pulpit and referred to gay people as perverts — but Mr. Huckabee was a genial ambassador

That is all well and good, until you realize just who Huckabee was working for:

Likewise, the Times goes on to perfunctorily recount Huckabee’s failed 1992 Senate campaign:

Mr. Huckabee ran largely on social issues like abortion, portraying his opponent, Senator Dale Bumpers, a Democrat who was virtually an Arkansas institution, as a pornographer because he supported the National Endowment for the Arts. But attacking the popular veteran backfired; Mr. Huckabee was badly beaten.

Of course, there is more to it than that – such as the positions he put forward during his campaign, which he discussed with the Associated Press:

Having gays and lesbians in the military would be a disgrace for the nation, according to Huckabee.

"I agree with the leadership of our military, who believe it is not in the best interest of the armed forces to have homosexuals serving on active duty," he said. "I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government. I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

Q: Do you approve of a man and a woman living together out of marriage?

Huckabee: Whether or not I approve of a man and woman living together is not as much of an issue as whether or not it is right and whether or not God approves of it. The "living together" relationship is demeaning to the highest expression of human love and commitment. I reject it as an alternate lifestyle, because it robs people of the highest possible relationship one can experience: marriage. We should always strive to encourage every human being to experience his or her full potential and possibilities.  

Huckabee also shared his views regarding the proper treatment of people who are infected with HIV:

"It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population," he said. "This deadly disease, for which there is no cure, is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague."

This was 1992 – four years after the federal government distributed a pamphlet penned by then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop entitled “Understanding AIDS” which explained that the disease could not be contracted through everyday contact.  And is not as if Huckabee just didn’t see the pamphlet, since it “was sent to all 107 million households in the United States in 1988, the largest public health mailing ever done.”

Huckabee likes to portray himself as a different kind of right-wing leader, one who is conservative but “is not angry about it.” But judging by his past remarks, he appears far more like his right-wing allies than he would like the nation to believe. 

The Speech: Romney still no JFK

Mitt Romney’s speech on religious liberty and the role his faith would play in his presidency – the long-discussed “JFK speech” -- included some Kennedy-esque rhetoric about the fundamental importance of religious liberty, but it was a far cry from JFK’s ringing endorsement of church-state separation. The timing of Romney’s speech, as former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee overtook Romney in Iowa polling, seemed to make it clear that Romney’s target audience was the conservative evangelicals who play a major role in Republican primaries. Many of those voters have told pollsters that they’re reluctant to vote for a Mormon, and they have little patience for arguments that church-state separation is good for religious liberty.
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