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  1. #1
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    As Huckabee gains steam, establishment sees a threat

    As Huckabee gains steam, establishment sees a threat


    WEST DES MOINES - The Republican establishment is galvanizing against upstart GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, worried that the former Arkansas governor is unreliably conservative and unprepared for the challenges of a general election campaign or the Oval office.


    On the campaign trail here, Huckabee is winning over voters with a folksy, self-deprecating message rooted in the conservative tenets of faith and family. Recent polls show him overtaking chief rival Mitt Romney despite being vastly underfunded in the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

    Huckabee's surge in recent weeks appears to have stunned and maddened the party's conservative hierarchy. While the GOP establishment hasn't lined up behind any other single candidate, it has steadily raised the volume of its objections to Huckabee as his plausibility as a candidate has grown.

    The Club for Growth, an influential advocacy group favoring lower taxes and reduced government spending, has attacked Huckabee for what it calls his high-taxing ways when he was governor, and is running a TV ad campaign against Huckabee in Iowa, making Huckabee the only GOP candidate to be hit in the state with a negative ad from fellow Republicans.

    Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, the standard-bearing conservative magazine, warned in a recent anti-endorsement of Huckabee that the "unvetted" governor was "manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States and that his nomination would be "an act of suicide" for the party.

    Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and 1996 GOP presidential nominee, criticized Huckabee on foreign policy and many other conservative leaders have put their money and endorsements elsewhere. Some in the party have compared Huckabee with 2004 Democratic candidate Howard Dean, whose initially successful grass-roots campaign almost undid Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry's quest for the nomination.

    "He's a fly-by-night candidate. His campaign was pasted together with construction paper and glue," said Nachama Soloveichik, spokeswoman for the Club for Growth. Huckabee, a Baptist minister whose campaign speeches often sound like a Sunday sermon, has appeal for religious evangelicals, Soloveichik acknowledged, but "there are different groups that are just so appalled by different elements of his record that they can't embrace it."

    Huckabee was caught up yesterday in another dispute over his foreign policy savvy, facing questions about why he had raised the issue of illegal immigration in the United States to explain the significance of the slaying of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.

    The Club for Growth - which Huckabee has called the "Club for Greed" - has derided Huckabee, saying his nomination would be "an abject rejection of the free-market, limited-government, economic conservatism that has been the unifying theme of the Republican Party for decades."

    Before rank-and-file voters, Huckabee is known for his public charm and humor, quipping at a recent event that he'd be happy to buy movie tickets on caucus night for any voters who planned to support another GOP candidate. He has also pointedly refrained from directly criticizing other candidates, pleasing Iowa voters who don't like negative campaigning.Continued...

    It is difficult to find voters in the state - even ones who are backing another GOP candidate, or who are Democrats - who say they don't like Huckabee's personality. Even Democratic Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois hopeful, has called Huckabee "sincere and decent," and voters say they like Huckabee's positive public demeanor and the humility he displays when discussing his working-class roots.

    But there is an undercurrent of rebellion in Huckabee that carries a subtle threat to the GOP establishment. In speeches and interviews, Huckabee is clear about intending to remake the Republican Party, saying he wants to hand power back to the people instead of party institutions - a prospect that does not sit well with some conservatives.

    "I have never believed the GOP is spelled G-O-D," Huckabee told a crowd of nearly 1,200 this week. "I love my country, and I love it more than the Republican Party. The Republican Party needs to be changed, and there are some people who are not fond of me saying it."

    The "ruling class," Huckabee said - not naming a party or person - wants Americans to believe the country is horizontal, with voters aligned left to right. Instead, he says the country needs to put partisan politics aside and work together to "solve real problems."

    Huckabee's campaign staffers say party stalwarts have been suspicious of Huckabee because he is a product of grass-roots Republicans, and not of the GOP hierarchy.

    "I lived through it with [former President] Reagan, said Ed Rollins, Huckabee's campaign chairman. "They sensed Reagan was the outsider." Huckabee "is not a part of the system, not part of the Northeast corridor or California" that the party turns to for national candidates, he said.

    "We're not from them," Chip Saltsman, Huckabee's campaign manager, said of the GOP establishment. "We're not of Washington. We're not spending a lot of time in Washington," and that has upset GOP insiders, he said.

    Republicans traditionally are a top-down organization, and want a nominee that comes from the establishment and will do the bidding of GOP leaders and organizations, political analysts on both parties say. Republicans have derailed rebellious candidates such as Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was defeated in 2000 in part by Republican attacks. This year, Huckabee is the target - and he's being forced to fight back on a shoestring budget.

    "Here comes a guy, genuinely from the bottom up, who is not part of the establishment and who has a real appeal in battling the establishment," said John Zogby, an independent pollster based in upstate New York.

    "That doesn't really work in the Republican Party. He upsets the apple cart," Zogby added.

    On paper, Huckabee appears to be a conservative's dream: he is antiabortion - unlike former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - and always has been so, unlike former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. He is a deeply religious man, giving him credibility with the GOP's evangelical conservative wing, and professes a desire to reduce taxes.

    But he has also been criticized for raising some fees and taxes in Arkansas, for pardoning or commuting sentences of criminals, and for backing legislation that would allow children of illegal immigrants to be eligible for scholarships if they pass a set of rigorous standards.

    Huckabee's fans say he is being unfairly singled out; Romney, they note, approved a Massachusetts law mandating that all residents buy health insurance, while Giuliani made comments as mayor sympathetic to undocumented workers.

    "It's ridiculous. He has excellent conservative credentials," said Keith Appell, a GOP consultant. "Huckabee has as much claim to the Reagan conservative mantle as any of these guys, maybe even more," he said.

    Peter Fenn, a Democratic political consultant, said Huckabee is being punished by his party for being an outsider.

    "He doesn't have the funding base of Republican donors. He doesn't have the usual suspects around him. I think that scares them [Republican stalwarts]. They don't know what to expect."

    Huckabee supporters hope a win or strong showing in Iowa will bring more establishment GOP officials to his camp.

    An influx of money would be critical for Huckabee to compete on Feb. 5, when about 20 states will hold contests that could decide the nomination.

    In the meantime, Huckabee said yesterday, he will stay positive even in the wake of GOP attacks.

    "I'll find out next Thursday whether that was a smart strategy," he said.


    www.boston.com



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  2. #2
    Senior Member patbrunz's Avatar
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    I'm having a hard time getting my mind around a Baptist minister from Arkansas being President of the United States, but I guess I'm just a little slow.
    All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. -Edmund Burke

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