The Conservative Case For — And Against — Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee seems to be picking up a little bit of steam of late. He won the onsite Values Voter poll almost 5 to 1 over his nearest competitor, Chuck Norris endorsed him, and he raised $325,000 over the last 6 days, which is pretty doggone good for a guy who only raised a million in the last quarter.

Does that mean Huckabee is a top tier contender? Given his poll numbers and lack of fund raising in the first three quarters, not quite, but still, he does have an outside chance to win the nomination. If he could pull out a surprise victory in Iowa, which isn’t out of the question, Huckabee might actually be able to generate enough momentum and money to go on to victory.

That being said, people don’t seem to know much about Mike Huckabee beyond the fact that he’s a governor from Arkansas and is very charismatic.

So, with that in mind, I want to fill in a few blank spots for people, both positive and negative, about Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee’s Resume And Strengths

* Huckabee is a former Southern Baptist minister who was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007. That’s a fairly impressive accomplishment, given that Huckabee was only the third Republican governor Arkansas has had since the Reconstruction. Additionally, Huckabee lost 105 pounds in 10 months, which, believe it or not, was his biggest selling point very early in the campaign when few people knew who he was.

* Huckabee would certainly have some strengths that would be very helpful for a candidate at the top of the ticket in 2008. He is, without a doubt, the most charismatic candidate in the race, on either side. He’s also a governor and as a general rule, governors do beat senators when they go head-to-head in a Presidential race. Additionally, Huckabee is a Washington outsider, seems to have minimal baggage, and would definitely be able to turn out social conservatives, which means it’s likely he’d be a very electable candidate.

Some Key Issues

2nd Amendment: Huckabee is a long time member of the NRA and seems to have an excellent record on 2nd Amendment issues.

Fiscal Conservatism & Taxes: The Club for Growth, which Huckabee does not seem to get along with, panned him fairly hard in their white paper on his record. Here’s a summary from the CFG,

“Governor Huckabee’s record on pro-growth, free-market policies is a mixed bag, with pro-growth positions on trade and tort reform, mixed positions on school choice, political speech, and entitlement reform, and profoundly anti-growth positions on taxes, spending, and government regulation.

While Governor Huckabee’s record displays some flashes of economic conservatism, especially during his early years, the overwhelming evidence of his record and rhetoric over the past ten years leaves the Club for Growth and economic conservatives around the country to wonder if a President Huckabee would espouse the relatively pro-growth policies of Governor Huckabee circa 1997 or the anti-growth policies of Governor Huckabee circa 2004. While the Governor has made a concerted effort to defend his record, calling oneself an economic conservative does not make one so. His recent refusals to rule out raising taxes if elected President-the cornerstone of a pro-growth platform-perhaps indicate which path he would choose.”

Foreign Policy: As expected with a governor, he doesn’t have much of a record to go on when it comes to foreign policy, but his positions seem to be generally in line with those of the top tier contenders. He opposes setting a timeline in Iraq, wants to significantly increase the defense budget, strongly supports Israel, and has said, “There is no way Iran will acquire nuclear weapons on my watch.”

Illegal Immigration: Today, Mike Huckabee is taking a security first position on illegal immigration, with support for amnesty and a guest worker program down the road. Here’s a representative sample of his position from his website,

My number one priority is to secure America’s border.

…I opposed the amnesty bill that was defeated by the Senate in June.

…We need to create a process to allow people to come here to do the jobs – plucking chickens, tarring roofs, picking fruits – that are going unfilled by our citizens. They must have a tamper-proof, scannable I. D. with a finger or retinal scan, so that their employers know they belong here.

…Those who are caught trying to enter illegally must be detained, processed, and deported. Illegal immigrants who are already living among us and commit crimes must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and incarcerated or deported.

However, when I interviewed Mike Huckabee back in April of 2006, he was a supporter of comprehensive immigration whose positions seemed to be, by and large, indistinguishable from those of George Bush. Here is an excerpt from the interview,

John Hawkins: Let me ask you about the hot issue of the day, illegal immigration. When it comes to illegal immigration, do you think we should allow illegal aliens currently in the country to become citizens or at least give them the opportunity to or the opportunity to stay as guest workers, or do you think they should have to leave the United States?

Mike Huckabee: Well, I’m not as sure that leaving and then coming back is as important as it is to acknowledge that what they’ve done is illegal, pay a fine, and then get in line behind the people that are going through the process of being here legally. It’s important that we have a legal process.

We can’t just ignore our laws. We either change them or enforce them for clearly this land is a land that is dependent on more workers than we currently have for many of the jobs that Americans honestly don’t want. So there is, I think, a reality that we shouldn’t just sort of look the other way. I don’t believe in amnesty. That’s not a good idea, but creating a pathway where people can have a form of restitution to make things right, to understand that laws have to be obeyed or some consequences have to be applied. That makes more sense than trying to deport 12 million people or build a 700 million, ehr…700 billion dollar fence (Hawkins Note: Most estimates of the cost of the fence are in the 2-5 billion dollar range), whatever it’s going to cost.

Social Conservatism: Huckabee has a superb record on right to life issues, supports an amendment to protect marriage, and would be sure to make social conservatives very happy as the nominee.

Wayne Dumond: This hasn’t really broken nationally and it’s hard to estimate how big of a deal it would ultimately turn out to be, but Huckabee has his own “Willie Horton case” to deal with. Wayne Dumond was a convicted rapist that Huckabee went to bat for and after Dumond got paroled with Huckabee’s help, Dumond sexually assaulted and murdered a woman.

Summary

Would Huckabee be a strong, socially conservative candidate for the GOP in 2008 with an excellent chance of beating Hillary? Yes, he would. In the last 9 elections — at a minimum — the more likable candidate has won and Huckabee beats Hillary hands down in that category. Also, the fact that he’s a governor, not a Washington insider, would also be a huge advantage. If you ask me who is more electable in a general election, Huckabee, Romney, or Rudy, I’d take Huckabee over either of them by a good margin. Given that the war on terror and the Supreme Court will be hanging in the balance, electability is no small thing.

However, the downside of Huckabee is that he’s essentially George Bush with charisma when it comes to domestic issues. He is not a small government guy or a fiscal conservative, he doesn’t seem to be a movement conservative, and he’s not someone who can be trusted to be tough on illegal immigration.

So, if you’re someone who thinks, “If George Bush could learn to talk a little better, I’d love to have him around for a third term because of his domestic policies,” Mike Huckabee is your guy.

Also see,

The Conservative Case For Fred Thompson In 2008 (Oct 12, 2007)


The Conservative Case Against Mitt Romney (Oct 5, 2007)

The Conservative Case Against Ron Paul (June 15, 2007)

The Conservative Case For Duncan Hunter (February 2, 2007)

The Conservative Case Against Rudy Giuliani In 2008 (August 29, 2006)

An Interview With Governor Mike Huckabee Of Arkansas (April 10, 2006)

The Conservative Case Against John McCain In 2008 (March 15, 2006)

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