Huckabee Out-Tancredoing Himself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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