Will McCain Pick Up Huckabee’s Baggage?

Last week, there was speculation swirling that John McCain was considering choosing one-time presidential rival Mike Huckabee as his vice-presidential running mate and over the weekend, Huckabee himself made it abundantly clear that he really, really wants this job:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said yesterday he’d like to be John McCain’s running mate.

“There’s no one I would rather be on a ticket with than John McCain,” said Huckabee, who was a stronger than expected challenger against McCain for the Republican presidential nomination.

“All during the campaign when I was his rival, not a running mate, there was no one who was more complimentary of him publicly and privately. . . . I still wanted to win, but if I couldn’t, John McCain was always the guy I would have supported and have now supported.”

The conventional wisdom is that picking Huckabee would go a long way toward helping McCain shore up the right-wing base that has been somewhat reluctant to support him, given that McCain’s own outreach to that community has little to show so far beyond the controversy generated by the endorsements of John Hagee and Rod Parsely.   

Considering that McCain’s own efforts to woo the Right have been such a disaster, it might behoove his campaign to think long and hard about bringing Huckabee on board because if he climbs aboard the Straight Talk Express, he’ll be bringing his own right-wing baggage along for the ride. 

By now, everyone is familiar with Huckabee’s 1992 statement that the government should have been quarantining those infected with HIV or his statement on the campaign trail that the US Constitution should be amended to meet “God's standards,” or his view that the role of government was to promote Jesus Christ,  so McCain ought to expect to be asked whether he agrees with those views.  He can probably also expect to get lots of grief from former supporters of Mitt Romney, who did not particularly appreciate Huckabee’s attempts to use his own Christian faith as a means of highlighting Romney’s Mormonism and thereby undermine his campaign efforts to reach out to right-wing voters.  

While the McCain camp might consider itself prepared to deal with these sorts of issues, it’ll have its work cut out when it tries to explain away the people who endorsed Huckabee … people like Janet Folger, for instance, who think that the marriage ruling in California is a sign of the End Times.   

Folger was an avid Huckabee supporter from the moment he won the Values Voter Debate which she organized and for which she hand-picked the choir that sang “Why Should God Bless America?,” after which she anointed him the "David among Jesse’s sons."  She went on to pen columns claiming that only Huckabee could prevent Hillary Clinton from throwing all Christians into prison and save her fantasy world from “evil queen and her dragon of slaughter.”  

For her efforts, she was tapped by Huckabee to serve as co-chair of his Faith and Values Coalition, so McCain can look forward to answering questions about whether he agree with her efforts to pray for bad weather to keep voter turnout down, her statements that supporting Barack Obama is like supporting Nazis, and the front-group she launched to attack both Mitt Romney and McCain himself.

And McCain can also look forward to answering questions about Rick Scarborough who, like Folger, served on Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition.  Scarborough, a self-described “Christocrat” heads Vision America and, when he’s not out palling around with Alan Keys, 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, saying that opponents of the War in Iraq are committing treason, organizing conferences designed to highlight the “War on Christians and Values Voters,” and penning books entitled “Liberalism Kills Kids” among other things.

In fact, McCain and Huckabee would have a difficult time explaining away pretty much the entirely of Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition, which included dozens of right-wing activists like of Don Wildmon, Mike Farris, Mat Staver, Kelly Shackelford, and Phil Burress; not to mention Huckabee’s consorting with the likes of Tim and Beverly LaHaye and Steve Hotze, who once signed a manifesto declaring:

    • 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

And let’s not forget Huckabee’s first job working with James Robison:

Considering that the McCain campaign chalks up the Hagee and Parsley controversy to poor vetting, presumably they intend to do a better job in the future; but if they pick Huckabee, it’ll be obvious that they haven’t learned their lesson at all.  While they may think that Huckabee’s primary contribution to the McCain effort will be his ability to bring along a rabid following of extreme right-wing supporters, allowing McCain to focus on courting the general electorate, it is possible that they will instead end up spending a lot of time trying to distance themselves from controversy such blatant pandering will inevitably generate.

Huckabee Angling for VP Slot?

While most right-wing activists who opposed John McCain in the Republican primary are falling in line with him now that his nomination is secure, there remain a few holdouts. WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah recently outlined the general principle guiding stragglers: “All things being equal, I'd rather watch the Democrats destroy America for the next four years, holding out hope that a new kind of Republican leadership might arise to fight back in 2012.”

Mike Huckabee is not one of these holdouts. Or is he?

In his most recent column, Robert Novak suggests that Mike Huckabee and his supporters, despite their announcements of support for John McCain, are secretly hoping that McCain loses in November so that Huckabee can run again in 2012:

[R]eports out of the evangelical community dispute Huckabee's support. One experienced, credible activist in Christian politics who would not let his name be used told me Huckabee in personal conversation with him embraced the concept that an Obama presidency might be what the American people deserve. That fits what has largely been a fringe position among evangelicals that the pain of an Obama presidency is in keeping with the Bible's prophecy.

Novak admits that Huckabee denies these allegations, but that didn't stop him from writing his column anyway, which prompted Huckabee to write his own blog post on his HuckPAC website calling the anonymous sources behind Novak's column liars and challenging them to either put up or shut up:

On another note, I was very disturbed by a column by Robert Novak that quoted some “anonymous source” in saying that while I strongly supported Senator McCain, I thought that maybe America “deserves Obama,” as if to say that I secretly hoped he won.

Where do people dream up this stuff? Forget the “anonymous” sources—there’s nothing anonymous about my stand and here it is. We don’t “deserve” Obama—we DESERVE a President with the character, convictions, experience, and wisdom to see the problems we face and try to lead us to solve them. We deserve a President who truly loves this country and from whom there is no doubt as to his respect for Faith, Family, and the kind of Freedom that those before us have given their lives to pass on to us. John McCain meets that criteria and that’s why I am campaigning for him and not hoping for Obama. The nonsense that I want Obama to win this year so I can run in 2012 is absurd. I love my country more than my own ambition. So let the record and truth be clear. And let the “anonymous” sources either show the courage to stand up and be accountable for their comments or shut up and leave commentary to people who aren’t afraid of their own shadow.

Huckabee's response was certainly vehement and swift ... do you suppose this has anything to do with that?

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain's short list for a running mate. At least that's the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain's inner circle.

The Nazi Thing

Zirkle and the Nazi PartyTony Zirkle’s 15 minutes of swastika-draped fame were widely reported last month, when the Indiana congressional candidate spoke at an American Nazi Party celebration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Zirkle, whose campaign warns of a link between Jews and pornography, offered the comical explanation that, despite the oversize Hitler portrait and Nazi flags directly behind him, the swastika armbands of the men on either side of him, and the words “Seig Heil” on the cake, “he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.” The candidate was duly reviled by his opponent in the Republican primary race, as well as by everybody else, as an isolated racist crackpot.

However, the report on the matter by the right-wing WorldNetDaily—a product of the anti-Bill Clinton Arkansas Project that now hosts columnists such as Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Chuck Norris—offered an unusual twist. After reviewing the story and printing a number of random comments from other websites (a common journalistic technique at WND), the article tried to put it in a kind of context: "Other congressional candidates have raised eyebrows with their speeches, too," it stated. But its only example was a quote from Rep. Keith Ellison comparing the time after September 11, 2001, when the Bush Administration asserted new executive privileges, to the time after the burning of the Reichstag, when Hitler consolidated his powers.

While Ellison took heat for using the metaphor, there is, to put it mildly, a pretty obvious distinction between making a rhetorical comparison of your opponents' tactics to historical events in Nazi Germany, and actually forging an alliance with present-day Nazis based on apparently shared values. So why did WND choose this as its only attempt at context?

Ellison, of course, was the first Muslim member of Congress, and after his election in 2006, the Right launched an effort to portray his presence in Washington as a dire threat to the nation. WorldNetDaily offered obsessive coverage through dozens of flimsy, paranoid articles with titles such as “Doubts grow over Muslim lawmaker's loyalty” and “Muslim congressman called 'security' issue.”

Since WND is so desperate for an example of an anti-Semitic political figure, it’s fortunate that Ted Pike provided a timely reminder. Pike, head of the National Prayer Network, has been a frequent source of quotes for WND whenever the site covered proposed federal hate-crimes protections, most recently in December.

Pike is best-known, however, for pushing out anti-Semitic propaganda along with his father, a radio talker in the 1980s. As People For the American Way reported in a press release from 1989, Pike was warning that there was “a tendency toward Jewish domination of society,” that “Jewish international bankers” were behind the Bolshevik Revolution, and that the state of Israel was “the first stage in Satan’s plan to take this world from Christ and give it to the Antichrist.” Twenty years ago, Pike was warning that the Jewish motivation behind hate-crimes legislation was to silence churches; today, he warns of the “homosexual agenda.”

We were reminded of Pike—and his place as a privileged WorldNetDaily commentator—after he sent out an e-mail alert two weeks ago complaining that the Southern Poverty Law Center had cited the National Prayer Network as a hate group:

Jewish activist groups want to increasingly broaden the terms "hate" and "anti-Semitism" to include evangelicals. …

Jewish activists thus display a truly hateful intent—to harm Christians and deprive them of freedom. Such activists work to warp public and government perceptions of Christian conservatives—demonizing us as potential sources of “homophobic,” anti-Semitic bigotry and possible violence. SPLC alleges a 48 percent increase of threat from the "radical right" since 2000. Jewish attack groups such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way, smear “homophobic” evangelicals as being part of this “threat.”

After defaming Christians as "haters," Jewish supremacists want to actually outlaw Christian political activity and evangelism. The ADL created hate crime laws that will particularly outlaw reproof of sodomy and evangelism of non-Christians, especially Jews.

(Photo: The Times of Northwest Indiana.)

Huckabee Not The Forgiving Type

A while back, we noted that Mike Huckabee had been mending fences with the likes of The Club for Growth and the Family Research Council despite the fact that the groups had been cool, if not outright hostile, to his presidential aspirations.  

While Huckabee may be trying to make nice with some of the DC powerbrokers, it doesn’t look like he is quite as forgiving of those who crossed him back in Arkansas.  

Back when his campaign was starting to pick up steam, former Republican state representative Randy Minton was among those who started showing up in the press bad-mouthing Huckabee to anyone who would listen:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, suddenly a serious candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is “the biggest RINO I know,” according to former state Rep. Randy Minton.

“I call (Huckabee) a pro-life, pro-gun liberal,” says Minton, who says he himself belongs to “the Re-publican wing of the Republican Party.”

Minton says he is philosophically aligned with the anti-tax Club for Growth, which has begun running political ads attacking Huckabee as “Tax Hike Mike.”

“He says he’s pro-family. If you’re raising taxes on the families of Arkansas, causing wives to go out and get jobs to make ends meet, that’s not pro-family,” Minton said.

Minton was so opposed to the prospect of a Huckabee presidency that he even traveled to Iowa, on Ron Paul’s dime, to campaign against him:

Earlier this week, a group of Arkansans went to Iowa for three days of media appearances to lobby against Huckabee. Randy Minton, a former state legislator and chairman of the conservative Eagle Forum, was one of these new Travelers. “I will be going across the state raising awareness [of Huckabee's record],” said Minton before the trip. He cited Huckabee's record of raising taxes and his liberal use of pardons as two issues he planned to discuss.

Huckabee’s campaign eventually faltered and folded and Huckabee re-emerged as the head of a new PAC and, wouldn’t you know it, now that Minton has decided to run for a House seat in Arkansas, HuckPAC has likewise decided to back his opponent:

Despite his new status as national political celebrity, Huckabee is backing Minton's opponent in a very local legislative race.

Davy Carter of Cabot is Minton's GOP opponent for the House District 48 seat in the May 20 Republican primary. Sarah Huckabee, the former governor's daughter and executive director of HuckPAC, a newly created political action committee, confirmed Friday that her father is supporting Carter, and that the PAC would be supporting him, as well.

Minton did what he could to ensure that Huckabee’s candidacy went down in defeat and it looks like Huckabee has decided to return the favor.

Huckabee: No Hard Feelings

Mike Huckabee’s decision to sign on with an entertainment talent agency might suggest he intends to take his act to late-night television, but in the meantime, he’s shoring up his political base.

First, Huckabee’s breathlessly promoted announcement was simply the formation of a PAC—pretty standard stuff for a politician. Likewise, it’s hardly a shock to hear he’s going to be campaigning for John McCain.

But it was a big surprise to see Huckabee grant a very friendly interview to the Club for Growth, an anti-tax attack group that started off early and aggressively running TV ads against Huckabee in Iowa. The candidate bit back over the last year, scandalizing conservative fusionists by calling the group “the Club for Greed.” Now, here he is chatting about vice-presidential picks for a Club for Growth web video.

And he’s scheduled to do a fundraiser for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, a state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. He’ll be appearing alongside Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. Dobson and Perkins were among the Religious Right “political bosses” who Huckabee felt snubbed him in favor of candidates like Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson—in fact, just a few weeks ago, Huckabee was blaming them for sinking his campaign:

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."

Huckabee may be looking at another presidential run in 2012, or he may try to parlay his mailing list into a career as a Religious Right “political boss” himself, but in either case, it appears he’s taking a page from McCain’s post-2000 playbook: find your enemies and suck up to them.

The Goldilocks Right Settles on a Candidate, After the Fact

It was at a Council for National Policy meeting back in September that the Goldilocks brigade of the Religious Right, led by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, threatened to break away from the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani won the nomination. And the CNP meeting in March was one of John McCain’s first stops after securing the GOP mantle—continuing his pandering to the fringe.

Now, Warren Cole Smith of the conservative-Christian World magazine relates a tense scene from the CNP meeting:

Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, an early supporter of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chided the group for cold-shouldering his candidate until it was too late. Others, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, disagreed. The meeting quickly threatened to dissolve into accusations, rebuttals, and recriminations.

Then, venerable Paul Weyrich—a founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the Council for National Policy (CNP)—raised his hand to speak. Weyrich is a man whose mortality is plain to see. A freak accident several years ago left him with a spinal injury, which ultimately led to both his legs being amputated in 2005. He now gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He is visibly paler and grayer than he was just a few years ago, a fact not lost on many of his friends in the room, some of whom had fought in the political trenches with him since the 1960s.

The room—which had been taken over by argument and side-conversations—became suddenly quiet. Weyrich, a Romney supporter and one of those Farris had chastised for not supporting Huckabee, steered his wheelchair to the front of the room and slowly turned to face his compatriots. In a voice barely above a whisper, he said, "Friends, before all of you and before almighty God, I want to say I was wrong."

In a quiet, brief, but passionate speech, Weyrich essentially confessed that he and the other leaders should have backed Huckabee, a candidate who shared their values more fully than any other candidate in a generation. He agreed with Farris that many conservative leaders had blown it. By chasing other candidates with greater visibility, they failed to see what many of their supporters in the trenches saw clearly: Huckabee was their guy.

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.

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.

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,, 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 “” 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.

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.

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