January 7, 2015

President Huckabee?

The former Arkansas governor is testing the turbulent waters for 2016.

Former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee has decided to once again test the turbulent waters of presidential candidacy. Entering what might grow to be the largest field of candidates the GOP has seen, Huckabee will need to significantly broaden his appeal to avoid his 2008 defeat.

In that race, the ordained Southern Baptist minister’s appeal to evangelical voters won him a few primaries, but in the end he failed to win the support of the socially moderate or fiscally conservative wings. Since then, America’s values climate has only devolved, and many more voters will find Huckabee’s Christian values unpalatable.

RealClearPolitics shows him tied for fourth in a field of 12 candidates. But 17 points separate him from front-running Jeb Bush.

A couple brushes Huckabee had with the Club for Growth in past years could cause him problems. When Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) ran for the Senate in 2011, the Club for Growth attacked Thompson’s record and supported his opponent. Huckabee replied that the Club had no understanding of what it takes to govern, and that Thompson had lowered taxes, cut capital gains and inheritance taxes, while increasing employment.

The following year, while Huckabee considered a run for the nomination, the Club for Growth sent a press release referencing a white paper tied to Huckabee’s last presidential run in 2008. It offered highlights from the report, including charges that Huckabee “raised sales taxes repeatedly,” “increased state spending” and “raised the minimum wage.” Indeed, while Huckabee brags of cutting taxes while governor, he also raised them for a net increase of about $500 million.

It’s telling that the leftist rag Mother Jones defended him in 2007: “Spending did go up under the Huckabee regime. … But Huckabee balanced the Arkansas state budget every year he was governor (balancing the budget is a requirement under Arkansas state law) and in the end, Huckabee had a positive effect on the state ledger: He faced a $200 million deficit in 2002, but ended his term with a $844.5 million surplus.” Their conclusion: “Democrats support the sort of fiscal responsibility that Huckabee was able to demonstrate.” That should raise a few red flags.

Yet Leon Wolf of Red State offers a few words of tempered wisdom on this dispute: “[I]t is entirely fair to engage Mike Huckabee stridently on the substance. … What bothers me is that, résumé-wise, Huckabee is pretty much the same guy as Jeb Bush. People who disagree with Jeb generally start their disagreement with Jeb’s policies. … People who disagree with Huckabee generally start by attacking him personally.”

“Believe it or not,” Wolf adds, “the people who … go to their Southern Baptist churches … are smart enough to figure out why Huckabee gets this disparate treatment and what it means about how the folks in Washington, DC who are at least nominally on their side view them. … [M]aybe it would be worth toning back the contempt a little.”

Still, Huckabee has other issues to resolve – among them his support for Common Core and cap and trade.

Last year, Huckabee urged conservatives to “stop the fight” over the Common Core standards promulgated by the Obama “Education” Department. He urged fellow Republicans to consider the positive effects the nationalized standards might have on students in poor-performing schools. This position pits Huckabee squarely against virtually every other conservative. Common Core has been judged to be junk and deserves to be scrapped. Unless he has a sudden epiphany, his hopes for nomination will go the way of Common Core.

As for cap and trade, Huckabee claims that he’s never believed in global warming or supported cap and trade, but in 2007 he said he supported a mandatory cap on global-warming pollution and that the U.S. has a moral obligation to address climate change. “It goes to the moral issue,” he said then. “We have a responsibility to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, to conserve energy, to find alternative forms of energy that are renewable and sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

Seven years is enough time for someone to re-evaluate an old position. Huckabee needs to make his position clear now because the last thing we need is another envirofascist president.

Though the primaries are still a year away, as more Republicans throw in their hats, the contest will become more contentious. Candidates and the entire party must keep their eyes on the prize, and remember that the bigger fight is with Democrats.

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