Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, beloved by many on the Religious Right for his positions on wedge issues but dismissed as a serious presidential candidate, has spent the last few weeks deploying a seemingly desperate gambit aimed at undermining support for frontrunners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. They should “be held to a standard of personal accountability and responsibility for their personal lives,” he said, alluding to what Vision America’s Rick Scarborough called “multiple marriages and serial adultery” among the candidates. “If Republicans in this election vote in such a way as to say a candidate’s personal life and personal conduct in office doesn’t matter,” said Huckabee, “then a lot of Christian evangelical leaders owe Bill Clinton a public apology.”
Unfortunately for Huckabee, the strong attack apparently has not helped his own candidacy: he has yet to break 2 percent in polls, and he’s raised less than $600,000, putting him in the lower end of the second-tier candidates.
In a recent appearance in Iowa, Huckabee sharpened his “personal lives” attack, noting that “I’m specifically referencing Christian evangelical leaders who were the most vocal in saying back during the Clinton era that personal behavior, personal responsibility and character were the key factors in a president’s criteria.” He accused those leaders of selling out to the Republican Party.
‘‘That’s my challenge to Christian leaders — either be consistent, be Christian leaders or just say I’m a political boss and it’s really about the power,’’ he said.
What’s at stake, Huckabee said, is the credibility of religious conservatives.
‘‘Christian leaders need to be Christian leaders, not Republican leaders,’’ he said.
Of course, Huckabee isn’t running for a church board, he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination, so it’s not exactly clear why embracing his own political bid would prevent a religious-right leader from being a “political boss.”