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Arkansas Dems, Montana’s Brian Schweitzer: Let’s Spend the Night Together

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Am I at a Republican event?

Loud, booming music about America plays over a loud speaker. I feel like General Douglas MacArthur could rise from the dead and storm to the podium at any minute.

For so many years, Democrats have reliably played John Cougar Mellencamp, Bon Jovi and U2 songs at these events to the point of musical exhaustion for reporters. But tonight it’s seemingly John Phillip Sousa’s greatest hits on a loop. I’d take “Beautiful Day” over charging military anthems, but nobody asked me..

Welcome to the Democratic Party of Arkansas’ Jefferson-Jackson Dinner 2011. Yee-haw!

At these events, news is seldom made. People get awards. They eat a buffet dinner. They drink. Switch “greedy Republicans” for “tax and spend” Democrats and you have the same thing at the GOP’s annual dinner. This is a red-meat event meant to fire up the party faithful.

Speaking of red meat – tonight’s buffet dinner is (surprisingly) beef instead of chicken. We media  always sit at a back table and don’t get to eat. Since journalism ethics require us to starve rather than accept a slice of cheesecake. At this event, media wasn’t allowed to pay a small ticket price – $10 to $15 – to enjoy a buffet while waiting for the main speaker: The colorful Montana Governor, Brian Schweitzer. Alas, I should have packed a picnic to this shindig.

The temperature is freezing in Verizon Arena. Not chilly, not cool. Close to sub-zero. Sarah Palin would feel right at home if the room wasn’t filled with 1,300 Democrats.

This is not the glamorous part of a girl reporter’s life. Waiting and watching – that’s the name of the game.

Fashion makes for colorful entertainment. For women, the dresses range from ultra casual to full-on fancy formals with glittery high heels. One woman wears a necklace that looked more like a chandelier than jewelry. A girl almost teeters out of her glittery gold too-high-heeled pumps right in front of the media table. Whew! Good thing her beau was there to catch her.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe soon arrives and the television camera guys buzzes around him. He sticks to talking points, chatting about how Democratic candidates could get elected in 2012. (Hardworking candidates who are known in their districts, he says.) Confession: My attention wanes. My eye roams to the cute guy in his security detail. Did he just wink at me?

Beebe moves along to mingle because that’s what politicians do at these events. Shake hands and chat.

Plates of food attached to the hands of Democrats march past the media pen. My stomach growls. I’m cold. If this was a hashtag, #unhappy would be it.

Media usually stays in its assigned area, but in case we didn’t know that, arena officials suddenly arrive in front of the table and sticks down bold black and yellow striped tape. What happens if we cross it? Hmm. Will Beebe’s cute security guy tackle me?

The show starts with Gabe Holmstrom, who once worked for former Rep. Marion Berry.  Berry has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Holstrom wants everyone to yell a get well wish for Berry while he recorded it on his iPhone. It doesn’t go so well as everyone is out of sync. It’s the thought that counts, right?

An invocation by Democratic stalwart Jimmie Lou Fisher follows. Amen.

Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor addresses the crowd next, explaining to Schweitzer how everyone works together in Arkansas. “Even the Baptists and Methodists work together sometimes.” He adds that there were limits to this.

It becomes hard to focus because I really long for a pair of mittens as a cold wind blows across my notepad.

The new Arkansas Party Chairman, Will Bond, who looks like Harry Potter minus the scar, introduces a video about Arkansas Democrats. I don’t know any of the people in the video although one guy Mark who runs his own business looks vaguely familiar.

A bevy of presentations followed before Rep. Mike Ross (who announced less than 48 hours later that he would not seek re-election in 2012) hit the stage. He targets Republican Rep. Tim Griffin and Rep. Rick Crawford, saying Griffin already thinks he is running for senator and Crawford still has a deer in the headlights look in his eyes. Ouch.

More constitutional officers speak before Beebe, like a Baptist preacher, gets the crowd fired up about tax cuts, job losses and the overall ills of the country.

“The strength of the country has always been in the center,” he says.

I’m hungry. I tweet that I’m hungry. Maybe someone will hear my pleas.

Finally, the man of the night Schweitzer, in casual dress and wearing a bolo tie, blasts onto the stage. He says he hated to leave Montana in July because the state only gets two months of summer. Beebe, however, told him that Montana and Arkansas has the same weather.

“You get down to 74 and we get up to 74 in the day,” he says.

Ah ha! That’s why it is so cold in the arena. They want to make Schweitzer feel right at home. I hope I don’t catch pneumonia on this assignment. Some people are covering themselves with napkins. Maybe I can take the blue skirt off the table and whip it into a cape. A cape revolution! (Note to self: Watch more DIY shows.)

Schweitzer spins yarns about the Big Sky state, which he loves dearly. He makes it sound romantic with its beauty, wind energy and people living to be 114 years old. How much does a plane ticket to Montana cost?

Three slices of cheesecake arrive at our table from the state director of a non-partisan organization, Americans for Prosperity. Two of the reporters don’t trust it. Ethics be damned. I’m starving. The only food I have eaten all day is a cat-head biscuit. At the moment, I could eat the whole cat. It’s not as yummy as a wedge from the Cheesecake Factory, but it’ll keep my blood sugar to plummeting to zero as Schweitzer carries on. Montana runs deep in him.

In my peripheral vision, the cute security guy lurks. OMG. Has he been watching me scarf this dessert as if it is my last meal on death row? #embarrassing

Schweitzer finally wraps up his cowboy storytelling just as I enjoy the last bite of cheesecake. Perfect timing, Mr. Montana.

Written by suziparker1313

July 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Sarah Palin: Could She Run as an Independent or Third Party Candidate?

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Sarah Palin talks a lot about the tea party.

On Fox News last week, she said, “I find inspiration in tea party patriots [and] those with common sense who aren’t playing a lot of games.”

She could be considered the tea party’s godmother. With her Sarah PAC and support for 2010 tea party candidates, Palin has generated a lot of good will, not to mention publicity, for a movement that began only two years ago. She also isn’t afraid to attack popular Republicans such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Further proof that Palin isn’t always a GOP team player: She is skipping the first GOP primary debate on May 2 to give a keynote address, “Tribute to the Troops with Sarah Palin,” at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colo. Some take this as a sure sign, along with her tanking poll numbers in key places like Iowa, that Palin will not seek the White House in 2012.

Could Palin, ever the rogue, be concocting a different plan?

What if Palin is building a grassroots army of patriots to help her undertake this mission? Palin, unlike any failed vice presidential candidate before her, has taken an opportunity and spun it into a gold mine. But to remain relevant in a crowded 2012 field of attention-seeking veteran politicians, Palin may have to make an unconventional move.

Although third-party candidates seldom win in America’s two-party system, they can certainly rain on political parades. At the same time, they can help down-ballot candidates by getting voters to the polls who might otherwise stay at home.

Palin certainly has many of the qualities of a third-party candidate – charismatic and passionate, with a status as an outsider intent on storming the barricades of the establishment.

Consider previous candidates with engaging and controversial personalities who attempted to carve their own path to the Oval Office.

Larger-than-life Theodore Roosevelt ran on his Bull Moose Party ticket in 1912. He won 27.4 percent of the popular vote and carried six states, totaling 88 electoral votes. Roosevelt’s candidacy split the Republican vote, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the election.

In 1948, Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat segregationist, a major draw in Southern states. Former Democratic governor George Wallace of Alabama ran in 1968 on the American Independent Party line. He remains the only third-party candidate since 1948 to win a state.

Ronald Reagan didn’t face just Jimmy Carter. He also had to run against John Anderson, who had run in the crowded Republican primary. When it looked certain that Reagan would win, Anderson jumped to an independent candidacy. He received support from Rockefeller Republicans, author Gore Vidal, television sitcom creator Norman Lear and even the editors of “The New Republic.”

One of the most prominent third-party candidates, perhaps, is Ross Perot. With his charts and nasal voice, he became a household name and the star of many “Saturday Night Live” skits, with Dana Carvey playing Perot. The billionaire Texan threw a wrench into George H.W. Bush’s re-election bid against Bill Clinton. He finished second in two states – Utah, ahead of Clinton, and Maine, ahead of Bush. Perot won 18.9 percent of the popular vote but no electoral votes.

He gave it another shot in 1996, but with lesser impact, on the Reform Party ticket. He garnered 8 percent of the popular vote.

Ralph Nader has run four times for president – twice as a Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000 and twice as an independent, in 2004 and 2008.

For Palin to run as a tea party candidate, it would require money and keen organization. To become a legitimate third party, as opposed to its current status as a movement, the tea party would face a series of steep obstacles it likely could not scale by 2012.

For example, each state has its own ballot-access laws. Some states simply require a filing fee, but others have complex petition-gathering requirements for a party to become established, purposely aimed at keeping third parties off the ballot and protecting the elevated status of the major parties.

And the tea party isn’t showing any effort to become established.

That’s because the Republicans have figured out, for now, how to please the tea party.

“The tea party potentially forming a third-party movement would happen if they become completely disgusted with the Republicans,” said Dr. Jim Broussard, professor of history at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa.”That doesn’t seem likely now. Both in Washington and at the state level, most Republicans have figured out what people sent them to do.”

But what if the 2012 Republican nominee, maybe Mitt Romney or outgoing China ambassador Jon Huntsman, isn’t a tea party darling? Palin could emerge as the conservative populist alternative. Her best bet then would be to align with an established third party such as the Reform Party, like Pat Buchanan did in 2000, or run as an independent.

One downside of running as an independent? Absolutely no structure to rely on for support. But Palin already has a built-in voter, and fan, base. She has more than 2.7 million Facebook fans and 439,000 Twitter followers. She raises millions through her PAC, and gets massive media coverage from one tweet. She would likely have no problem covering the filing fees to get on the ballots in various states. Palin could use her social media tentacles to gather signatures on petitions in states that require such.

Politico has reported that she could set up a presidential base in Arizona. That might be the perfect spot to launch an independent bid. The tea party recently held a summit in the state, which Palin did not attend but endorsed. It’s also the state where Barry Goldwater revamped the modern-day conservative movement in the 1960s. Palin, in turn, could revolutionize the status of the independent candidate in Sen. John McCain’s back yard without playing by the Iowa and New Hampshire game.

Matthew Kerbel, professor of political science at Villanova University, said, “Her history suggests she would relish the opportunity to run without having to do the heavy lifting of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, and she would certainly want her supporters to come to her and demand that she run.”

Then again, Kerbel says, “She may be the first candidate in history to run for president in order to preserve their place as a pop culture figure.”

[Originally published on Politics Daily, March 9, 2011]

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Sarah Palin’s Triple Whammy: Chris Christie, Barack Obama and Bill O’Reilly

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In front of an Alaskan backdrop of mountains and a lake, Sarah Palin had a busy, busy night on television Friday. She found time to tweak a fellow Republican, dismiss the president, and scold a top-rated Fox News talk show host.

Palin opened by questioning New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie‘s toughness and attacking President Barack Obama for naivete. After that, she preached about cutting various government programs to Bill O’Reilly before advising him not to interrupt her. All in a night’s work.

On America’s Nightly Scoreboard, host David Asman informed Palin that Christie had told Fox Business News that he didn’t see any politician as inspiring. “Do you?” Asman asked Palin.

“Heck yeah, I am so thankful for all these common sense conservative politicians to serve and cut for the right reasons,” she said. “And with all due respect to Governor Christie, you know he has no choice but to cut budgets because he’s broke, his state is broke. What courage really is, is in the face of having a surplus when you have opportunity to spend, spend, spend other people’s money, and you still choose to rein in government to let the private sector soar.”

Palin said as governor she trimmed Alaska’s budget, although it had a surplus. She put a hiring freeze in place, reduced earmarks by 86 percent and vetoed the largest amounts of spending in the state’s history, she said.

Without mentioning potential 2012 Republican candidates by name, Palin said, “I find inspiration in tea party patriots [and] those with common sense who aren’t playing a lot of games.”

On the same show, she said President Obama didn’t understand the labor situation in Wisconsin because he is “so inexperienced in the private sector and in goverment, and in actually running anything and making any kind of budget.”

She added that Obama has a “naive and destructive and terrifying anti-oil agenda” that “is going to bring our nation to our knees — and his agenda must be stopped.”

Wearing the same fleece and faux fur jacket, Palin appeared later on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss future plans for government entitlements such as Social Security. “Yeah, entitlement programs have to be reformed,” she told the host. “They are going to eat our lunch. They will certainly consume our entire federal budget by 2035. unless we reform.”

Palin cited Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan, “A Roadmap for American’s Future” as one way restrain Social Security costs. She said his proposal “can nail it quite accurately, as when he talks about age 55 being a cut-off age” in the future for traditional Social Security payments.

Ryan’s plan would preserve the existing Social Security program for those 55 or older but offer workers younger than 55 the option of investing more than one-third of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts.

Palin chastised the hard-charging O’Reilly for interrupting her: “I really apologize that up here in Alaska we have this four-second delay so it’s not an easy exchange to try and get my point across to you if you interrupt.” O’Reilly let her make points on raising the retirement age and the possibility that safety net programs for the poor will have to be reduced.

“If we had a robust economy here and all across the country then we wouldn’t have to be looking at these insolvent entitlement programs that, yeah, when we start pulling the plug on some of them there is going to be a shared burden across the country,” she said.

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:11 am

RIP Jane Russell: Lifelong Republican and Straight Shooter

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I met Jane Russell once.

It was in my hometown, Pine Bluff, Ark., a faded Southern place that hosted a film festival in hopes of raising enough money to restore the Saenger Theater, a once palatial movie house. Each year, the festival invited former famous starlets – Tippi Hedren, Carol Channing, Shirley Jones, Celeste Holm – to talk about Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 2002, Russell came to town.

Statuesque, with silver hair and a still-to-be-envied figure, Russell possessed no celebrity air about her. She talked like a good old Western gal who had seen a lot, and done a lot, but no longer was wowed by sweet-talking fans or bright lights. Dr. Foster Hirsch, host of the American Film institute’s “Tributes,” interviewed her and afterward, she met fans. Russell shook my hand and was unfailingly polite. She even gave my mom a hug.

Russell, 89, died Monday in Santa Maria, Calif., from respiratory failure.

The vampy sex symbol was born in Minnesota, but her family moved to California when she was 11. She blasted onto to the Hollywood scene in the 1943 Howard Hughes film, “The Outlaw,” wearing a low-cut blouse and reclining against a stack of hay bales. Hughes used sexist language and pure exploitation to promote the film – and Russell’s breasts – with posters that said, “How Would You Like to Tussle With Russell?”

Overnight, the busty brunette became a GI fantasy as the country reeled from war. During the Korean War, troops named two embattled hills in her honor.

As one commenter said on the Los Angeles Times website, “My dad was in the army during WWII and had lunch with Jane during a tour she made. He commented that she was a very nice girl. He felt she was just a normal, down to earth girl that just happened to be a movie star. That was a great compliment to her character coming from him.”

Never considered a fantastic actress, or one who accumulated awards, Russell played Calamity Jane in “The Paleface” with Bob Hope and starred with another sex goddess, Marilyn Monroe, in the musical, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” As she aged, she faded out of films and found new fans in nightclubs, on stage and in live appearances.

For many who grew up in the 1970s watching daytime television, Russell is known as the “bra lady.” Playtex hired Russell to be its spokeswoman for bras for “full-figured women.”

But for all her sexiness, Russell’s personal life didn’t necessarily reflect the glamorous one she played onscreen. She was conservative when conservative wasn’t cool.

In the 1950s, Russell, who considered herself evangelical or Pentecostal without belonging to a specific denomination, formed a female gospel quartet called the “Hollywood Christian Group” that came together after they met at a church social. Even as her star was rising, Russell held fast to her Christian faith, creating a weekly Bible study at her home for Christians in the film industry.

Russell was also blunt. She told the Associated Press in 1960: “I’ve no trouble getting in to see senators and congressmen.”

She was married three times, and admitted to having an abortion when she was young. Because of the botched procedure, she opted to adopt, became a mother to three children and was a strong pro-life advocate. (She asked that donations in her memory be given to Net Pregnancy & Resource Center in Santa Maria, Calif., where she lived.)

Russell founded World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), which placed children with adoptive families and pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans.

“Jane Russell founded the very first international adoption organization, and because of her, our immigration laws were changed so that children from overseas, mostly with American fathers, were allowed to come here,” Gerald H. Cornez, executive director of WAIF, said in a 1999 Los Angeles profile of Russell.

The organization has since closed.

Russell, a lifelong Republican, attended Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration. She once said: “I have always been a Republican, and when I was in Hollywood long ago, most of the people there were Republican. The studio heads were all Republican, my boss Howard Hughes was a raving Republican, and we had a motion picture code in those days so they couldn’t do all this naughty stuff. We had John Wayne, we had Charlton Heston, we had man named Ronald Reagan, we had Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Clark Gable.”

As she got older, Russell also got more outspoken. She said, “These days I am a tee-total, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist.”

Of liberal actors like George Clooney and Susan Sarandon, she said, “I think they’re not well.”

Today’s liberal Hollywood may not have offered Russell a welcoming role, but here’s a toast (a virgin cocktail, of course) to this uppity woman who never ceased calling it like she saw it.

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:09 am

Herman Cain Wins Tea Party Straw Poll in Arizona

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The political long shot for 2012 – Herman Cain – is already a winner.

Cain, who is the first of the 2012 candidates to form a presidential exploratory committee, won the American Policy Summit’s presidential live straw poll on Sunday held by the Tea Party Patriots conference in Phoenix.

On Twitter, Cain wrote: “Honored to learn that I won the Tea Party Patriots’ presidential straw poll. Thanks for your support!”

According to the Cain camp, out of 14 options on the ballot and 1,600 votes, Cain came in first with 22 percent in the straw poll. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota was second with 16 percent of the vote. Both attended the summit. The summit also hosted an online poll, which Rep. Ron Paul of Texas won with nearly half the votes. More than 2,300 people voted online.

A conservative talk show host in Georgia and former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive, Cain has spent the last year attending more than 120 tea party events around the country. On Friday, he attended a summit hosted by Americans for Prosperity in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Cain says the tea party movement will not weaken in 2012 but only gain strength as more people engage in the political process. On Sunday, he tweeted: “Today is 2nd anniversary of Tea Party. As a proud member, I’m here to tell you- movement isn’t dying out. It’s getting stronger!”

On Thursday, Politico reported that Cain had incorporated Friends of Herman Cain under a section of the tax code – 527. Such a designation would allow the group to accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations.

On Twitter, a movement is developing for a ticket of Cain and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey ticket in 2012.

Cain will appear on Monday in Washington at the Legacy Political Fund, which is hosting its two-day Washington DC Briefing 2011.

A host of popular Republicans, and possible 2012 candidates, are expected to speak on Monday including former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Sen. Jim Dement of South Carolina.

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:07 am

Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour: A Tale of Two Souths

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While greeting reporters last week in Washington, Mike Huckabee joked about New Hampshire and his Southern roots.

Huckabee is currently on a book tour to promote his new release, “A Simple Government.” He hits key 2012 states, like Iowa and South Carolina, but not New Hampshire. When asked why there were no New Hampshire stops on his book tour, he told reporters, including Politics Daily’s Walter Shapiro: “Have you ever been to New Hampshire in February? It’s cold up there. My Southern blood isn’t acclimated.”

Spoken like a true Southerner.

Huckabee has built a brand around his folksy, Southern roots that resonates with voters. He duck hunts, jokes about frying squirrel in his dorm room when he was in college and is building a multimillion-dollar beach house in the Redneck Riviera – as the panhandle of Florida is called by middle-class Southerners who vacation there.

As a Republican in a region that has been trending Reagan red since the 1980s, Huckabee could do very well in a 2012 presidential GOP Southern primary. In 2008, Huckabee came in second in the South Carolina Republican primary behind Sen. John McCain despite a lack of solid fundraising.

But Huckabee will certainly have some stiff competition for Southern votes if Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi chooses to run.

To many who do not live in the South, all Southerners may appear as if they are cut from the same Confederate cloth, but that is far from true. Huckabee and Barbour are representative of two different worlds.

Barbour is a product of the stiff, proper old South with a history of plantations, cotton, the Civil War and horrific race relations. He was born into a family with a legacy that can be traced to the state capitol in the early 1880s. Walter Leake, a Barbour ancestor, was the third governor of Mississippi as well as a U.S. senator. His paternal grandfather was a judge who held stock in the local bank and as a lawyer represented railroads. His father, who died when Barbour was 2, was a lawyer. The family was well known in Yazoo City, a town that both thrives on, and is haunted by, its Southern heritage.

Yazoo City didn’t integrate its schools until 1970 – long after Barbour, who attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford, had graduated from high school. The town did not shy away from its connection to the Citizens Council movement, an organization that was founded on the basis of resistance to integration. Barbour, too, hasn’t shied away from the group.

In a December 2010 interview with The Weekly Standard, he said: “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up North they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

While Barbour took heat for that comment, many Southerners who grew up in the same time period as Barbour, especially in the Mississippi Delta, understood what he meant. During the Civil Rights movement, the South was a place that operated in black and white.

That South still resonates today with Southerners who attended country clubs that today are still segregated socially, if not legally, by race and private schools founded by wealthy white families.

Barbour, a former powerful lobbyist with a hefty resume filled with Washington connections, is Presbyterian – a religion that is far from fire and brimstone. When Barbour was the chair of the Republican National Committee, many reporters fell under his spell because of “a generous supply of Maker’s Mark in his handy RNC liquor cabinet.” His state of Mississippi has thrived with casino gambling and Barbour, too, has supported it.

If Barbour is a son of the Old South, where politicians prosper because of their ancestry and fraternity connections, Huckabee is the poster child for the emerging South.

Arkansas suffers from an identity crisis. The state never had the grand plantations that were prevalent in Mississippi or a legacy of Confederate millionaires. If anything, Arkansas was as a gateway to the Wild West, a place where those who fled the Civil War landed and stayed either because they ran out of money or feared Indian Territory. Because of that history, Arkansas neither connects whole-heartedly with the proper South or the scrappy West.

Huckabee, like Bill Clinton, grew up in Hope, Arkansas, in a middle-class family. His father was a mechanic and a fireman and his mother was a clerk at a gas company.

When he was governor, he often told a story that resonated with a lot of people who grew up in Arkansas. When he was 8 years old, his father told him, “Son, the governor is coming to dedicate the new lake and make a talk and I’m going to take you down to hear him because you might live your whole life and never see a governor in person,” Huckabee recalls.

“Huckabee has sneered at that Old South mentality,” says Dr. Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College “He has often resented those who are in positions because of their power. It’s very much indicative of the Arkansas experience and those who made their own wealth – the Tysons, Sam Walton.”

A strict Baptist, Huckabee worked his way through college at Ouachita Baptist University by working at a radio station and pastoring a small church. He continued his path in the ministry, preaching at various churches in the South. In the 1980s, he encouraged the all-white Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff to accept black members. He became the president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Huckabee doesn’t drink nor did he serve alcohol at events in the governor’s mansion during his term. He and his wife, Janet, renewed their vows in a convenant marriage ceremony while he was governor. And Huckabee is against gambling.

Unlike Barbour who worked for the Richard Nixon campaign in 1968, Huckabee had no legacy in politics – national or local. He built his following from scratch in the early 1990s when he decided to challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers – a brave move for a Republican pastor in a dyed-in-the-wool Democratic state.

Huckabee, a conservative populist, could resonate in 2012 among tea party supporters who have never dabbled in politics. He doesn’t shy away from his religion or the belief that the separation of church and state is impossible. He understands grassroots mobilizing, thanks to his church background and will be able to energize the religious-right base.

But Barbour brings something much more powerful to the table. His years of political wheeling and dealing and moneyed contacts are legendary — a plus in a crowded primary where money will make or break a candidate.

If Huckabee and Barbour choose to run, their campaigns will be a contrast of two Souths — the emerging one of self-made success with church at its center and the fading glory of the old Confederacy with legacy and ancestry at its core.

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:07 am

Herman Cain: A Long Shot in 2012, but That’s Not Stopping Him

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When Herman Cain walks into a tea party event, he is greeted like a rock star.

“It’s him, it’s him,” spreads across the meeting room.

And so it was here on Thursday. When people approached him, they acted like they knew him. They mentioned his Atlanta radio show. They asked about his book, “They Think You’re Stupid.” They told him they are curious about his possible 2012 presidential run.

Cain was in Little Rock for the Arkansas Defending the American Dream Summit hosted by Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas with about 150 attendees. Cain, the former chairman and deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, is the first of many potential 2012 presidential candidates to form an official exploratory committee.

He is building a grassroots movement by attending small gatherings around the country. Last year, he addressed more than 40 tea party rallies. On Friday, he hits Phoenix for the Tea Party Summit.

Cain sells books, videos of his speeches, and bumper stickers at these events. He passes out a pamphlet, “Common Sense Solutions: The People’s Platform,” which focuses on national security, the fair tax, domestic energy resources, and repealing and replacing “health care deform,” among other issues.

Sure, he’s a long-shot candidate, and he knows it, but don’t discount him.

“Bill Clinton, another long-shot candidate,” he told Politics Daily. “People would be nuts to think that a long-shot candidate didn’t have a chance to win.”

And, he points out, Barack Obama was another long-shot candidate who reached the Oval Office. “He was able to knock off the Clinton machine, that’s what I call it, because people got excited about a fresh face and a fresh voice.”

But that’s no longer the case, in his view.

“There’s nothing behind the voice or the message,” he said. “This administration is in free fall. The country is in a state of anxiety and the administration doesn’t have a handle on it all.”

Cain initially became known in political circles thanks to Bill Clinton. During the 1993 health care debate, he confronted the president at a town meeting in Kansas City.

He asked Clinton about the “employer mandate” — the proposal that most employers would have to offer health insurance to their workers — in the health care reform package. Cain said it would cost jobs. Clinton said subsidies would help small business. Cain didn’t back down and told Clinton, “Quite honestly, your calculation is inaccurate. In the competitive marketplace it simply doesn’t work that way.”

Cain supports the fair tax, which, among other things, would end current federal taxes and replace them with a national sales tax. Another potential 2012 candidate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, also supports the idea. Cain said the two have a common bond where the fair tax is concerned because both of them know how to articulate and defend it.

“We need the fair tax to stimulate the economy,” he said.

Cain sees the tea party movement getting stronger especially after the 2010 midterm elections. He sees more people who have never been involved in the electoral process leading into 2012. And that’s critical for change, he said.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “I see it getting stronger and getting bigger everywhere I go.”

That’s in no small part due to Sarah Palin, who has energized the conservative moment. “She has definitely been a plus,” he said. “That’s why liberals hate her because conservatives love her.”

But some people think Cain is the one to watch – or at least learn more about.

Lynn Holberton of Hot Springs Village, Ark., bought two of Cain’s books Thursday. She knew about him because her daughter, who lives in Ohio, had heard him on the radio.

“She told me ‘We should keep our eye on him,’ and I liked what I’ve read and I like that he has a business background,” Holberton said. “This country needs someone with business experience instead of political experience.”

[Post originally appeared on Politics Daily on Feb. 24, 2011]

Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 4:05 am