Now in the middle of a heated presidential primary race, Mike Huckabee seems to be trying to expand his base beyond the evangelical Christian voters who propelled him to victory in Iowa – or, more accurately, seems to be trying to convince himself and the press that his base of supporters extends beyond those who are seeking a “Christian Leader”:
This morning, on a Detroit talk radio show, Huckabee said his candidacy is appealing to more than evangelical Christian voters. He said that national polls showing him ahead of the field prove he’s reaching a broader audience.
“This talk that it’s just an Iowa thing or an evangelical thing has not proved to be true,” he said.
If Huckabee has evidence that his campaign is making an effort to win over non-evangelicals, he should make that public because recent press coverage of his efforts in Michigan and South Carolina suggests otherwise:
From the AP:
In the final campaign stretch in South Carolina, Huckabee backers will distribute voter guides and air radio announcements urging Christian pastors to speak out on moral issues and encourage people to vote, said Janet Folger, a Florida-based talk show host and co-chair of Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition.
But as in Iowa, the biggest secret to Huckabee’s Michigan success seems to be his depth of support among evangelical Christians. Typically, somewhere between one-fifth and one-third of Michigan’s Republican primary voters are self-identified evangelicals. A few weeks ago, a Detroit News survey found that number may be as high as 40 percent this year.
So pro-Huckabee organizers say they are focusing their entire effort on turning out evangelical church goers. They plan to call every evangelical pastor in the state over the next few days. Those ministers can’t endorse any candidate from the pulpit — but they can tell their parishioners that “it’s their Christian duty,” to turn out on primary day, said [Gary] Glenn. “And we know who they’ll be voting for.”
To help drive that message home, thousands of volunteers will be dropping leaflets and waving signs in church parking lots across Michigan this Sunday. Glenn says there will also be several news conferences across the state through the January 15 vote featuring groups of pastors announcing their personal support for Huckabee, an organized wave of callers into Michigan’s Christian radio stations, and phone trees targeting the state’s largest churches from within.
From the American Prospect:
I’ve been told that Huckabee is slated to speak at the Pastors’ Policy Briefing scheduled for this month in Orlando, Florida, which will also feature San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, who hosted Huckabee at his church in December. The Florida event is being facilitated by Orlando attorney John Stemberger, who was behind the drive to get a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the November ballot in Florida.
The Pastors’ Policy Briefings are secretive and closed to the press, and there’s no evidence that any of the other presidential candidates spoke at them, or were even invited to speak at them.
Huckabee recently moved his campaign into larger offices in Columbia and has been invited to preach in local churches on topics such as family values and parenting.
Randy Page, president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, a Columbia-based advocacy group, said the invitations reflect Huckabee’s appeal among evangelicals.
“He’s a preacher so it’s easier for him to get into a pulpit,” said Page, a Baptist who endorsed Thompson. “For a presidential candidate, it’s unprecedented.”