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Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum: Throwing Punches Ahead of 2012 Battle?

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has made up with Sarah Palin over remarks he made earlier this week about her absence at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Santorum told reporters after speaking at CPAC Thursday afternoon that it’s all good with Palin. “I’ve had exchanges with Sarah Palin not not for public record, and there is no problem between Sarah Palin and me on this issue,” CNN’s Political Ticker reported.

“We are fine. No problem,” Santorum said. “We’ve had exchanges” through an intermediary.

Just last night the former Alaska governor had her claws out on national TV.

In classic Palin fashion, she knocked down the potential presidential candidate a peg or two in speaking about her absence at this year’s CPAC, which began Thursday in Washington.

“I think the reports were much worse than what [Santorum] really said,” Palin said on the Fox News show “Hannity.” “I think some things were really taken out of context. So I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that perhaps others would want to call him. I’ll let his wife call him that instead.”

Ouch.

She continued, “I think maybe he’s uninformed as to why it is I can’t make it to another political speech in a couple of weeks. As I’ve explained, February is our busiest winter month and . . . just because I am a mom that does not mean I did not want to be there.”

Earlier this week, Santorum told conservative pundit S.E. Cupp in an interview for GlennBeck.com that he didn’t know why Palin wasn’t appearing at CPAC — but he hinted that it might have something to do with business opportunities and family. The remarks were deemed sexist by some.

“I have a feeling she has some demands on her time . . . and a lot of them have financial benefit attached to them,” he said. “So I am sure she is doing what is best for her and her family.”

He continued, “I’m not the mother to all of these kids and I don’t have other responsibilities like she has.”

Immediately after Palin’s comment on “Hannity,” Santorum responded on another Fox News show, “On the Record w/Greta Van Susteren,” saying that he was not “knocking” Palin. He said that she was a great spokesperson for the causes they believe in and both have children with disabilities.

It’s not like Palin has been a regular at CPAC. She has skipped the event for the last three years. David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union (which sponsors the gathering), and Palin have an ongoing feud.

Santorum, who is scheduled to speak at the event Thursday afternoon, served as a Pennsylvania senator from 1995 to 2007. He lost his 2006 reelection bid to Bob Casey Jr. Both he and Palin are toying with a 2012 presidential run.

The Iowa Republican website has called Santorum a “rising” candidate.

“There will be a huge void created if Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin don’t run in 2012, and those votes could easily go to a candidate like Santorum,” the website reports.

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Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 3:41 am

Sharron Angle Goes to Iowa: A Coy 2012 Candidate? Maybe (and Don’t Laugh)

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Are appearances at makeup and skin-care events proper platforms for a presidential candidate?

Probably not, but these days one can’t take anything for granted.

Take Sharron Angle, for example. After making a credible attempt to unseat Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada last fall, the tea party favorite could be gearing up for a White House run. She was in Iowa recently, attending the premiere of “The Genesis Code,” a film featuring former presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

And prior to that? On Jan. 21, she appeared at a makeup and skin-care event with Joni Rogers-Kante, founder and CEO of SeneGence International in Las Vegas. At that “girlfriend” gathering, Angle shared “her beauty and makeup challenges during the campaign and how she overcame them.” The flyer said that Angle “had confidence that she would look great with 14-16 hour days & numerous appearances daily . . . so can you!”

The juxtaposition might not have raised eyebrows except that she told a reporter from the Des Moines Register, who asked about her plans, “I’ll just say I have lots of options for the future, and I’m investigating all my options.”

She then added, perhaps slyly, “Please, just invite me back.”

At that Vegas skin-care event, did Angle whisper what color of lipstick she’d prefer to wear in the Hawkeye State – or the Granite State and beyond? More to the point, is she even serious about such a bid? In all likelihood, no. But she’s guaranteed media coverage when she ventures into Iowa, where any appearance by a political figure has potential portent.

Angle gained national prominence by taking on Reid. Her momentum grew thanks to the Internet and social media. Before becoming a tea party favorite, she served in the Nevada state legislature from 1998 to 2005 and in 2006 narrowly lost a congressional GOP primary.

Pundits and others — especially comedians — have scoffed at the notion of an Angle presidential campaign. On Comedy Central’s website, one post joked, “Is there room for one more clown in the clown car? Come on, clowns! You can make room! Go on, scoot over. Scoot over!”

But before everyone laughs, maybe they should pause.

Angle may not run — her chances of success are virtually nonexistent — but she might influence the primaries with money and rhetoric if the tea party movement holds strong. During her race against Reid, she raised more than $21 million (though, admittedly, conservatives viewed her as their best chance to boot a despised incumbent). And she recently announced her “Patriot Caucus PAC,” which is aimed at creating “a ground game across most battleground states for the 2012 election cycle.”

The PAC also launched a corresponding website and Facebook page, which only has about 6,000 followers so far — a small number in the online political world. The PAC’s advisory committee includes tea party organizers in New Hampshire, Florida and Iowa, where the Patriot Caucus plans to open offices. The website features “action groups,” one of which currently profiles Herman Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, conservative host of a popular talk radio show in Georgia, and himself weighing a 2012 presidential bid.

But the website cautions: “Action groups on the Patriot Caucus do not suggest an endorsement of any kind. All GOP candidates will be given an action group once an official campaign is announced.”

According to Federal Elections Commission reports, the PAC has yet to raise any money.

Angle also doesn’t work social media sites the way a future presidential candidate might. She updated her Twitter account last week after visiting Iowa, but prior to that, the last time she updated it was at Thanksgiving. Her only active Facebook account that is public is tied to her PAC, which was last updated Jan. 20.

Her trip to Iowa barely got a mention on The Iowa Republican blog. In contrast, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s visit and book signing on Sunday was a featured story.

Nonetheless, Lara Brown, an associate political science professor at Villanova University, says women such as Angle, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann cannot be dismissed for one reason — they bring other women into the political process (even if MSNBC host Chris Matthews calls them “balloon heads” — a term he used for Bachmann — Brown says).

“While some of these women’s presidential efforts will be little more than quixotic escapades, there is little doubt that they are changing the complexion of the Republican Party by demanding a place at the table and by energizing conservative women to engage in partisan politics,” Brown says.

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 3:28 am

Welcome, 2011: Sarah Palin and Julian Assange on the Radar Screen

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Ready or not, 2011 is here.

Consider some of these upcoming historic milestones as the new year arrives. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis becoming president of the Confederacy, the 70th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech (actually, his 1941 State of the Union address), the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s first presidential news conference — and the first ever to be broadcast live on television), and 25 years since the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

But 2011 will have its own special history, and here are some of the events that will help write it:

Sarah Palin’s presidential decision: Palin will have to decide this year whether to run for president. In order to compete in the 2012 primaries, she will have to soon start building a ground game in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure, she has her reality television show, two books, and husband Todd may show up on the next “Dancing With the Stars,” but Palin must do much more than be a household name to win a crowded GOP primary.

Sarah Palin, Julian AssangeThe former Alaska governor accumulated a lot of favors in the midterm election by supporting winning candidates in key presidential states — such as Nikki Haley in South Carolina — via her Sarah PAC. But she has a lot of work to do on the popularity front. A recent poll by CNN/Opinion Research shows that Palin would offer the weakest challenge to President Obama among current top-tier GOP contenders.

Time is ticking for Palin to make a decision because there are . . .

GOP primary debates: Yes, they’re already in the works. The Reagan Presidential Foundation will kick off the election season by hosting a panel of GOP presidential candidates in the spring. Then there’s June 7, 2011: That’s the date of the first presidential debate in New Hampshire for the 2012 GOP primary. The candidate forum will be sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR-TV, and CNN. Likely participants: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Wild cards: Palin, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding: The royal couple will tie the knot on Friday, April 29 at the thousand-year-old Westminster Abbey in London. The wedding may not draw as massive a crowd as gathered for Williams’ parents’ nuptials 30 years ago in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the media will certainly provide massive coverage. Prime Minister David Cameron has already designated the date as a public holiday.

The event will require major security, the cost of which could top $8 million. British special forces will go undercover with Afghan war veterans from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to watch for any potential attacks around Westminster Abbey. The wedding will also boost tourism — one company has launched a walking tour of locations that helped “define the next royal golden couple.” Also on tap: Kate is soon to be immortalized in wax by Madame Tussauds, and the royal couple will be featured on a British coin.

Julian Assange’s autobiography: No date has been set for the book’s release, which will be published sometime in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf and Britain’s Cannongate. The WikiLeaks founder is fighting extradition from England to Sweden, where he faces questioning for alleged sex crimes. Assange has said he doesn’t want to write a book but must do so in order to cover his ballooning legal costs and to continue funding his whistleblower website, which has angered and embarrassed governments worldwide by releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential cables and other documents.

To capitalize on (and extend) Assange’s 15 minutes of fame, Knopf will likely have to publish the book sooner rather than later. Assange will also likely cash in on a movie adaption of the book, especially since his story seems to have all the components — mystery, intrigue and sex — that sell tickets.

The space shuttle retirement: In 2011, America’s space shuttle will blast into orbit for the final time. The last scheduled flight is in early April. NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after 30 years of service to make way for future programs that will send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 — part of Obama’s new space exploration initiative. The president cancelled NASA’s Constellation program, which was developing new vehicles to send astronauts back to the moon. The end of the shuttle means that the United States will soon have to hitch rides with the Russians to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Last year, former astronaut (and senator) John Glenn condemned the cancellation of the shuttle program. In a statement, he lamented that “for the next five to ten years, the launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV. For the ‘world’s greatest spacefaring nation,’ this is hard to accept.”

Mike Huckabee: Serious Competition for Sarah Palin in 2012

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Sarah Palin may have met her political match in Mike Huckabee.

Both have been criss-crossing the country on book tours. Both hold degrees in communication. Both hunt and fish. Both use various media to hit their target audiences.

But while Palin often generates anger, Huckabee takes the Will Rogers road. He has an aw-shucks demeanor, freely cracking jokes, shaking hands and chatting with the media while Palin shuns reporters.

Already road-tested by a 2008 White House run, Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister, may just be the strongest GOP candidate to take on Palin in a primary and President Barack Obama in a general election.

Huckabee, so far, ranks high in favorability polls.

A Quinnipac poll on Nov. 22 showed Huckabee in a statistical dead heat with Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

In a Marist College poll on Nov. 24, Huckabee and Palin were virtually tied in popularity among Republicans who were not college graduates. But Huckabee pulled ahead significantly — 18 percent to Palin’s 9 percent — among respondents with college degrees. Huckabee came in second to Romney, who polled on top with 25 percent, among college-educated Republicans.
The high ratings mirror Huckabee’s numbers when he was governor. According to the yearly Arkansas Poll, Huckabee only dipped below 50 percent once from 1999 to 2006. In 2003, he hit a 47 percent approval rating, but the next year had 58 percent.

“He compares favorably to his leading competitors at the moment,” says Janine Parry, director of the Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas. “His unfavorable numbers are significantly lower, he’s penetrated the mainstream culture without becoming clownish, and he’s demonstrated a willingness – even eagerness – to be a practical, truly bipartisan leader. In this environment and in a general election at least, those seem like substantial assets.”

Huckabee’s career from Southern Baptist minister to politician is one of determination and ambition. The lesson for his opponents: He takes chances and he doesn’t give up easily.

From 1989 to 1991, Huckabee served as the youngest-ever elected president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. While well-known in church circles, Huckabee was a complete unknown in the political arena. But yet he took on a political legend, Sen. Dale Bumpers, for the U.S. Senate in 1992. He lost, but he received 40 percent of the vote.

In 1993, then-GOP State Chairman Asa Hutchinson urged Huckabee to run in a special election for lieutenant governor after Bill Clinton left the governor’s office to become president and Lt. Gov.Jim Guy Tucker became governor.

Huckabee ran against attorney Nate Coulter and won by a razor-thin margin. He ran a campaign against the state’s dominant Democratic establishment with the slogan, “Unplug the Machine.” In November 1994, he was re-elected to a four-year term.

While Huckabee planned another Senate run in 1996 for retiring Democratic Sen. David Pryor’s seat, his plans changed when Tucker resigned as governor after he got caught up in the Clinton Whitewater scandal and was convicted of fraud.

Huckabee faced a legislature with 89 Democrats out of 100 legislators in the House and only four Republicans in the 35-seat Senate. Yet, Huckabee found a way to govern.

“Huckabee’s great gift as governor was to be pretty ideologically in sync with a state that was conservative on social issues but believed in government,” says Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. “He took moderate, pro-government stances that were in step with the state and even on social issues, he didn’t push much.”

 

Barth cautions that Huckabee’s moderate stances on children’s health care and allowing children of illegal immigrants to attend college may not sit well with tea party voters who align with Palin.

During his 2008 presidential run, Huckabee played well as a candidate. He won the Iowa caucuses and came in second in South Carolina. He stayed in the race although Republicans were urging him to concede the primary to Sen. John McCain.

If he chooses to run again, Huckabee can claim Southern and Baptist credentials in Dixie and play the populist card in Iowa and New Hampshire. In California recently, he signed books at the Reagan Library — a tip of the hat to “The Great Communicator.”

In 2007, Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant and a Reagan national campaign manager, said, “Governor Huckabee has probably inspired me as much as Ronald Reagan. He had an ability to connect with people and he was a great communicator. I’ve looked for a long time for another candidate to do that.”

Meanwhile, Palin chose to stay in the heartland and South during her book tour and appeared in Huckabee’s Arkansas.

Huckabee’s weakness during the 2008 campaign was lack of money — something that Palin certainly knows how to generate. But those who know him say Huckabee is a quick study.

“Huckabee always learns from his defeats, whether they are political defeats or legislative defeats,” says Rex Nelson, Huckabee’s communications director while in the governor’s office. “He lost his first political race to U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers in 1992, adjusted and never lost another race in Arkansas. The 2008 race was one big learning experience for him since it was his first national race. If he seeks the nomination in 2012, he will be an even better candidate.”

Still, his Huck PAC has a lot less money than Palin’s or Romney’s. Huckabee had $194,578.01 on hand at the end of the last reporting period in November, compared to $1.2 million for Sarah PAC or $1 million for Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC.
But there are signs Huckabee is starting to shift gears.

In recent weeks, as Palin took her book to the Midwest and South and appeared in Huckabee’s Arkansas, Huckabee touted his book and became more vocal on current events, including WikiLeaks, tax cuts and health care. Earlier this year, Huckabee moved to Florida, a key presidential primary state, where he is building a $3 million beach house. He aligned himself last year with Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a popular tea party candidate.

While Palin heads to Haiti this week and plans a trip to Israel next year, Huckabee has visited Israel more than 10 times as a pastor and a politician. He plans another trip in late January to Israel, similar to a trip he took earlier this year with Christian crooner Pat Boone. He is an ardent supporter of Israel and can talk at length about the problems it faces.

On his PAC’s website, Huckabee is trying to raise $15,000 by the end of the month. He has started to update his Facebook page and Twitter account more frequently. Social media is a tool Palin uses with great frequency to get out her message.

More than Romney or Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Barth sees Palin as Huckabee’s biggest obstacle in a Republican primary.

“She’s a fresher face than Huckabee,” Barth says. “She has really courted the tea party a little better than Huckabee. But if she doesn’t run, he is a strong, strong candidate for the nomination.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Sarah Palin in a Little Rock Sam’s Club: Signs Books, Ignores Media

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sam’s Club – the Walmart-owned megastore that sells almost everything in bulk – is hardly the epitome of glamour.

So where does a superstar like Sarah Palin set up shop to sign books here? Amid the pallets of canned green beans? Behind the sea of poinsettias? Near the crates of toilet paper? Palin’s choice: In the back of the store behind the frozen-food freezers.

But her reception in Clinton – and Mike Huckabee – country was anything but chilly.

More than 500 people lined up on a cold night here to meet Palin, who signed her new book, “America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag,” earlier in the day at a stop in Baton Rouge, La. Some arrived before 5 a.m. to get in line for one of the 500 coveted purple wristbands entitling the wearer to get two books signed and to meet Sarah. That’s what her fans call her: “Sarah.” Simply Sarah, as if she is a best friend.

Members of the media were scooped up, identified and herded away immediately upon their arrival to a spot near the throngs of Palinites, whose ages ranged from 5 to 85, with some in wheelchairs and many with canes. A media escort spilled to me that Tuesday’s crowd was considerably smaller than Palin’s previous one last December, when more than 1,500 people showed up in northwest Arkansas to brave frigid weather for a brush with Palin and a copy of “Going Rogue.”

Near the front door of Sam’s Club, hundreds of copies of “America by Heart” were neatly stacked and adorned with $15.88 stickers. Before I could pick up a book, a media wrangler had corralled me into the snack area with other reporters. Polite but jittery, she repeatedly informed us that absolutely no questions could be asked of Palin. If anyone dared ask, they would be escorted out by security. She was adamant.

An elderly man wearing a purple wristband sat down with the media and handed the wrangler two copies each of “Blue Collar Christianity” and “Actions of the Early Church” by James F. Holmes to give to Palin. The wrangler then escorted the first team of photographers back to Palin.

Ten minutes later, they emerged frustrated.

“You have to shoot through people standing in front of her,” one photographer said, describing the area as the size of a phone booth behind black curtains.

The wrangler gathered up my group and escorted us past electronics, gigantic gun safes and boxes of enormous Christmas balls. “No questions,” she reminded us, as if we could have forgotten. “Ten minutes is all you get. No questions.”

In a line against a wall, fans waited with anticipation. They obediently shed coats and hoodies and placed them alongside their cameras and cell phones in rubber bins for security men who acted more like TSA agents than Sam’s Club employees. No photos, no recordings of any kind. Period.

It was a vastly different scene than the one my WomanUp colleague, Joann Weiner, wrote about earlier in the day about former President Jimmy Carter’s book signing in Washington.

We entered through a small tunnel of black curtains and stood behind a red rope line. There was Palin — sitting at a long table with a stack of books — and her youngest daughter, Piper, standing next to her. An American flag hung behind her. The Christian books from the elderly man sat on a tall table in the corner. An oversized poster of Palin’s book jacket leaned against it.

Palin wore a shiny black jacket with sleeves edged in sequins and a rhinestone American flag pin on the lapel. The former vice-presidential candidate smiled like a star as she scribbled “Sarah” — no personal inscriptions — in books. She wore her hair in her trademark upsweep, and a rose lipstick glossed her lips. Her nails sported a perfect French manicure.

In contrast, Piper’s nails were bright red as she fanned a stack of bookmarks, which she never passed out. She wore a black coat and her hair was combed back in a ponytail. A man behind the media pen informed a fan that Willow, another Palin daughter, was in the back.

A woman standing at the end of the table quickly stormed over and informed us that reporters were not supposed to be there. But the wrangler said it was fine. “No questions,” the woman said. A few minutes later, she told us she was with HarperCollins, Palin’s publishing company, and not Sam’s Club.

Palin shook hands with each person and asked their names. She quickly kept the line moving with small talk and no mention of North Korea, WikiLeaks or Barbara Bush. Piper leaned in at one point and told her mother something in a bossy tone and pointed toward the back of the store. The little girl looked angry as Palin smiled at her.

A woman and her young daughter approached Palin and discussed home schooling. A little boy then shook Palin’s hand.

“Study hard and read a lot of history,” she told him.

Two 20-something women tried to contain their glee when they entered the small area. Smiles radiated across their faces. They shook Palin’s hand, and she asked the one wearing scrubs if she were a nurse.

Before she could answer, reporters had to exit the area. The nurse, Susie Parkes, quickly followed with her sister, Katie, also a nurse.

“We’re her No. 1 fans,” Susie Parkes said, clutching her signed book. “We love her values and what she stands for and what she has done for our country.”

Katie Parkes echoed her sister. “She is bringing back values we need in this country that we have somehow lost. She stands for family and working-class America.”

“She said we had good hearts because we’re nurses and thanked us for doing the jobs we’re doing,” Susie Parkes said.

On Wednesday, the sisters were upgrading their cable system for the sole reason of watching “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on The Learning Channel. They said they would “absolutely” vote for her if she ran for president in 2012.

As I left, people were still standing in the cold and dark to meet Palin. At a busy intersection near Sam’s Club, one lonely protester stood holding a homemade sign that called Palin a quitter for resigning her Alaskan governor’s position. Palin’s handlers likely made sure she never saw the man.

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Mike Huckabee: Execute WikiLeaks Cable Source

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said in an interview while on his book tour in California that the person responsible for the leaked diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks should be executed.

“Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty,” he told reporters while signing books at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. He went on:

“They’ve put American lives at risks. They have put relationships that will take decades to rebuild at risk, and they knew full well that they were handling sensitive documents. They were entrusted and anyone who had access to that level of information was not only a person who understood what their rules were, but they also signed under oath a commitment that they would not violate it. They did. And I believe they have committed treason against this country, and any lives they endanger, they’re personally responsible for and the blood is on their hands.”

Pfc. Bradley Manning, confined in Kuwait, stands accused of unauthorized use and disclosure of U.S. classified information. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found.

Huckabee is on the road promoting his holiday books “A Simple Christmas” and “Can’t Wait Till Christmas.” He also hosts a Fox News show “Huckabee” every weekend.

The potential 2012 presidential candidate talked to reporters on a host of topics, including North Korea.

“This is a really tenuous situation and it’s made worse that we don’t have the stick as a country anymore than to beg the Chinese to intervene and it shows what happens when we don’t understand that the real strength of America comes from being strong, not weak,” he said.

He also paraphrased Margaret Thatcher when discussing unemployment. “The problem with socialism is sooner or later you run out of other people’s money and that’s what we have to start worrying about.”
Huckabee, who served for 10 1/2 years as Arkansas’ governor, suggested that if Congress passes unemployment extensions this week the rules should include measures similar to what is occurring in the United Kingdom under its coalition government.

“You show up every Monday morning at 8 o’clock,” he said. “You will either pick up trash or you will tutor in a school … you will do something from 8 in the morning until four or five that afternoon like everyone else who is getting a check.”

Huckabee also had some advice for California Republicans. “Keep talking common sense. The best way to make a Republican is let Democrats rule without any counterbalance. The one thing that Republicans don’t ever want to do is to act in such a way that there is no distinction between them and the Democrats.”

On 2012 White House aspirations, he said, “To be honest with you, I haven’t ruled out another run for the presidency and I will give it serious consideration and am…the door is very much open.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Mike Huckabee and 2012: Under the Radar, Over the Airwaves

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Mike Huckabee is a very busy man.

The former Arkansas governor hosts his weekly television show, Huckabee, on FOX News. He campaigns for candidates that he endorses through his Huck PAC. Last month, it was announced that Huckabee would lead fundraising efforts as chancellor of the new Victory University Foundation in Memphis. He’s reportedly recording an album in Nashville and writing a children’s Christmas book. He is already a successful author.

In July he launched “The Huckabee Show.” Airing as a pilot in a handful of cities, it is closer to “Dr. Phil” than “Meet the Press.” The show’s website calls Huckabee “a preacher who accepts all, a politician that never plays politics and a host unlike any other.”

Huckabee also leads tour groups on trips to Israel. He made one earlier this year with crooner Pat Boone during which he interviewed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in the Middle East as part of his work as an envoy to the region. He will take another group to the Holy Land in January.

To Huckabee watchers, it appears that he is flying under the radar to build up his national following for a future campaign for the White House. But considering his many roles, is he too busy for a presidential run in 2012? Not according to longtime confidants, who think Huckabee will make another try despite his failed bid two years ago.

This week, Huckabee topped the pack of potential candidates in a 2012 caucus poll commissioned by TheIowaRepublican.com website. Huckabee garnered 22 percent to Mitt Romney’s 19 percent. Newt Gingrich received 14 percent, Sarah Palin 11 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul 5 percent, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and South Dakota Sen. John Thune 1 percent each.

“It feels a lot better than it did this time four years ago, when I was an asterisk there,” Huckabee told Politics Daily.

Huckabee’s showing doesn’t surprise political watchers in Iowa, the state that kicks off the 2012 political season. Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 with 34 percent of the vote to Romney’s 25 percent. But Huckabee failed to repeat his success in the string of primary states that followed.

“He had the grassroots organization,” said Tim Hagel, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa. “He came in, did not have a national name, did not have the funds, but he did the exact correct thing you have to do in Iowa with the grassroots. He got volunteers talking to other volunteers. He had coffees. That’s what gets people out on a caucus night.”

In his first run for president, Huckabee made inroads in Iowa soon after the 2004 election. As Arkansas governor, he traveled there several times, a move Pawlenty is now mirroring. Of late, Huckabee hasn’t visited the state, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t planning a 2012 run.

In the age of social media, Huckabee and other potential presidential candidates don’t have to practically live in a state to keep their names out front. But the Huckabee brand doesn’t rely solely on Facebook and Twitter. “I spend about five nights a week, sometimes six in hotels and I’m often on planes four and five days a week,” he said. In addition to his television endeavors, he also hosts a radio segment, “The Huckabee Report,” on the Citadel Broadcast Network, which is beamed to almost 600 stations across the country.

“Shows are going great,” he said in an e-mail. “Doing a six-week preview for possible syndication in broadcast next year as well as the weekend show. Dream guests would include Keith Richards, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, and Dustin Hoffman. I’ve had many of my dream guests including Robert Duvall.” He recently hosted movie star Raquel Welch and rocker Meat Loaf on his weekend show.

With so many irons in the fire, would Huckabee give up his growing media empire for politics? Hagel thinks he could have it both ways, short of a presidential bid.

“He has a pretty good gig,” Hagel says. “In some sense, he could have his television show and be kind of a player in politics, doing appearances and the endorsement route.”

This week, Huckabee announced 11 endorsements in Iowa.

He began his career as a Southern Baptist preacher, but also mixed in media. When he led congregations at churches in two Arkansas cities, he hosted a program called “Positive Alternatives.”

Huckabee has always used media wisely to get out his message. On his Huck PAC website this week, he weighed in against the proposed mosque near Ground Zero: “The President and other supporters of this incredibly insensitive idea should do no less than listen to the families and loved ones of the three thousand murdered victims — and at least consider whether there isn’t a compromise that can be reached,” he wrote.

Huckabee doesn’t always align with the GOP, especially on immigration issues. He has not joined the conservative bandwagon to change the 14th Amendment to prohibit automatic citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

As Arkansas’ governor from 1996 to 2007, Huckabee was an ardent supporter of the state’s Hispanic community. The state hosted the national League of United Latin American Citizens convention while Huckabee was in office. He supported legislation that would have allowed college aid for high school graduates who entered the United States illegally. The legislation didn’t pass. Huckabee also helped the state gain a Mexican consulate while he was governor.

Huckabee told Politics Daily that the three most important issues currently facing the United States are the economy and jobs, the change to big government socialism, and the threat of radical Islam.

If Huckabee does dip back into political waters, his opponents would surely attack him on his decisions as governor to grant clemencies and pardons.

He commuted and accepted recommendations for pardon for twice as many prisoners — more than 1,000 — than his three predecessors. He commuted the sentence of Maurice Clemmons, who had committed burglary with a weapon, in order for Clemmons to receive parole. He was released in 2000 but continued on a crime spree. In November 2009, Clemmons was sought in connection with the murder of four police officers in Lakewood, Wash. He was killed during a manhunt.

Earlier this year, Huckabee shocked his home state when he relocated his official residence from Arkansas to Florida, a key state on the path to the presidency. At the time Huckabee told me, “We are keeping our house in Arkansas, but splitting our time between Arkansas, New York and Florida. Some of my business endeavors make the Florida residency more convenient for now.”

In June, the Republican Party of Arkansas hosted its annual dinner. The night honored the only three Republican governors in Arkansas since Reconstruction. Two are deceased. Huckabee was a no-show. While no Republican wanted to go on the record to whine about Huckabee’s absence, several said his nonappearance likely meant he wasn’t considering another White House run.

Others are not so quick to dismiss a Huckabee candidacy. But don’t expect a replay of his 2008 bid.

Rex Nelson, who was Huckabee’s communications director while in the governor’s office, said that Huckabee will likely run only if he has more commitments from key Republican fundraisers.

“He ran his last campaign on a shoestring and was still near the top,” said Nelson, now a Little Rock-based public relations consultant who writes a blog called “Southern Fried.” “I just don’t think he would run on a shoestring again in 2012. He would make a tremendous nominee. And polls show he is highly popular among Republican primary voters. But some of the so-called whales from the GOP fundraising establishment are going to have to get on board this time. If their strongest potential Republican nominee sits on the sideline, they will have only themselves to blame.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm