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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

John Boozman, Blanche Lincoln and Razorback Football: Politics in Hog Country

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Razorback fever is running fierce among Arkansas’ politicians.
It’s also creating a fracas in Hog Country as candidates try to out spirit their rivals and the University of Arkansas tries to keep track of possible trademark infringement.
Republican Senate candidate Rep. John Boozman’s initial Razorback-heavy TV campaign ad ignited a mini-controversy this week as the University of Arkansas prepares to play University of Louisiana-Monroe Saturday.

Boozman, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln, tweaked the ad Wednesday. It still has a football motif but not copyrighted images. The move came after university officials complained that the original could be construed as an endorsement and possibly in violation of copyright.

From 1969 to 1973, Boozman played football for the Razorbacks. His first ad of the general election season featured him standing in front of Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. A helmet with the Razorback hog logo was also in the ad along with other football memorabilia.

In a statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Boozman’s campaign manager said, “Out of respect for the University of Arkansas, our campaign voluntarily replaced our latest TV ad with one that did not contain any images or logos that might give the perception the University was favoring one candidate over another. Obviously, our campaign does not want to create a controversy for an institution that we have such a deep admiration for, so we amended the opening images of the ad, yet maintained the Congressman’s conservative message. The most important thing in this ad is not the pictures, but the principles that John Boozman will fight for in the Senate.”

But on Thursday, Republicans were whispering that the ad was changed after university donors and friends of Lincoln put pressure on the university.
“Untrue,” said Steve Voorhies, University of Arkansas spokesman.
Voorhies did acknowledge that “someone from the Lincoln campaign or a Lincoln supporter” called the university to ask about it. He said that the phone call came after the university had already started an investigation into the ad.
Arkansas doesn’t have a professional sports team, and the Razorbacks are a beloved institution in the state. In 1994, Bill Clinton was featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” wearing Razorback gear and holding a basketball in front of the White house.
Last weekend, at the Razorbacks’ season opener in Fayetteville, Lincoln hired a plane to fly over the stadium with a banner supporting the team’s quarterback. It said, “Blanche says Ryan Mallett for the Heisman ballot.”
Voorhies said the university cannot control air space above the stadium.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, who is seeking re-election against Republican businessman Jim Keet, agreed Thursday to take down pictures on his campaign Facebook page after the university contacted the campaign. The pictures showed the Arkansas Razorback mascot, Sue E, holding a Beebe campaign sticker and a male cheerleader with the same sticker.
According to university rules: “It is a policy of the UA spirit groups that businesses, political campaigns, etc. may not be endorsed (directly or indirectly) while students are in uniform, and this has been reinforced with students. Photos taken of current squad members should not be taken as an endorsement by the University or its athletics program.”
Some candidates have used the Razorback logo in the past. In 1980, Richard Adkisson, a candidate for Supreme Court chief justice, ran an advertisement proclaiming his endorsement by 27 former Razorback football lettermen. He also used the Razorback logo.
As part of a long-standing tradition, the team splits games between its home campus in Fayetteville and a stadium in the heart of Little Rock, where Saturday’s game will be played. Candidates have been promoting their tailgate parties all week.
Lincoln’s Facebook page says the candidate and her husband, Steve, are hosting a tailgate party “when the Razorbacks come to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock this Saturday, September 11 to beat the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. We’ll be serving up hot dogs, hamburgers, all the fixins and ice cold drinks. There will be enough for everyone so make sure you bring your friends…and family.” She also has an RSVP form on her website for the tailgate party that says “Hogs Fan for Blanche.”
Republican congressional candidate Tim Griffin has also invited supporters to “Hog-a-palooza” for hot dogs and burgers on Saturday. Campaigns can tailgate, according to War Memorial Stadium rules, as long as they purchase a space.

Late Thursday, Lincoln’s campaign posted a picture of a friend of Lincoln’s and the friend’s daughter at last week’s Razorback game. The football field is in the background. Both are wearing Razorback gear, face tattoos of the Razorback, and Lincoln campaign stickers.

Republicans called a foul: “Blanche needs to realize that just like in football, you have to play by the rules,” said Alice Stewart, senior communications adviser for the Republican Party of Arkansas. The Lincoln campaign said that the photo submitted by a supporter does not violate any rules.

David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision in Atlanta and a Republican consultant, said using sports team logos in political messaging is tricky.

“An unwritten rule in politics has been the careful use of college logos,” Johnson said. “Head coaches and even college players have made endorsements in the past but never in uniform or using the team logos or mascots. The better way to do it is to have a head coach, former player, or famous alumni to endorse you but not to use the logo.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 9:10 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 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

Bill Clinton: Economic Literacy a Must for America

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. – It’s the economy, stupid. Still.

That’s according to Bill Clinton, who returned to his old stomping grounds Wednesday to address the topic about which he has been called an expert.

Springdale is an appropriate place to talk economics. The region is the home of two of the world’s largest companies – Tyson Foods, Inc. and Walmart.

Both companies sponsored the fundraising luncheon for the private non-profit, non-partisan Economics Arkansas, which promotes training for K-12 teachers to integrate economic and personal finance concepts into the classroom. Twenty-one states have such classes in school. This fall, all ninth grade students in Arkansas will be required to take an economics course.

Clinton, in a black suit and pale green tie, received a standing ovation when he entered the room over an hour late.

“The mess we got into in this country is that people didn’t have enough economic literacy,” Clinton told the 1,000 people gathered in the Holiday Inn Convention Center. “Economics became of less concern to people.”

In his view, the recent financial meltdown and recession can be tracked to that lack of concern. In the last decade, Americans maxed out credit cards and took advantage of the subprime mortgage situation. “We pay a terrible price when people don’t understand economics.”

Clinton did not say he supported another stimulus package, but strongly cautioned Washington about passing another one, considering the size of the national debt. Government bonds are bought by China and other countries instead of individuals and American companies as was the case during the Great Depression.

“Since we are on the dole, we can’t enforce our own trade agreements,” Clinton said.
He stressed that Washington needs to focus on corporate treasuries and banks. Corporations need to invest more and banks need to loan more money to small businesses and individuals to stimulate the economy.

“We need to figure out whatever is needed to get that done,” he said. “What would make bankers feel good? Until that happens we aren’t going back” to a balanced and thriving economy.

Earlier in the day, he popped into a coffee shop and ran into the daughter of a deceased friend. He spoke to a meeting of a local economic council and visited the construction site of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a mammoth project funded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton.

Later, he was to visit the house where he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton married in 1975. The street in front of the 1930s English-style house was renamed last week from California Boulevard to Clinton Drive.

Indeed, throughout his luncheon speech, Clinton seemed wistful and homesick for Arkansas. He talked about old political allies and singled them out in the crowd.

“I think about you more than you might imagine,” he said.

Written by suziparker1313

March 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Chelsea Clinton’s Dream Wedding (in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock?)

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It would be the Arkansas equivalent of a royal wedding.

That is, if Bill and Hillary Clinton hosted Chelsea’s upcoming nuptials in her home state of Arkansas rather than in New York.

Chelsea, 30, plans to marry Marc Mezvinksy, 31, this summer. Hillary says the wedding is the most important matter consuming her. Bill says he is close to losing the 15 pounds that Chelsea requested of him. Wedding plans are top-secret with only a few tips leaking out.

My Woman Up colleague Annie Groer recently reported that the nuptials will occur on July 31 at Astor Courts, a 1902 Beaux-Arts masterpiece overlooking the Hudson River.

Clinton presidential libraryBut what if Chelsea wanted to have her wedding in Little Rock?

Chelsea only spent 11 years in Arkansas and left in 1992 when the Clintons moved from the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock to the White House in Washington DC. When her mother ran for US Senate after her father’s 2nd term ended it was from New York. But Arkansas still goes giddy for the beloved political family. Little Rock – home base for Friends of Bill (aka FOBs) – would be consumed by a Chelsea wedding.

When the Clinton Presidential Center opened in 2004, a week-long series of festivities occurred including a concert by Aretha Franklin. A Chelsea wedding would surely see “Chelsea and Marc” tea cups in the Clinton Museum Store, a stone’s throw from the presidential library, a gigantic banner congratulating the couple hanging on the side of the Clinton library and bars featuring Chelsea drink specials. A Chelsea Julep, anyone?

Arkansas is no stranger to extravagant, over-the-top weddings.

The state-wide daily newspaper dedicates a two-page spread every Sunday featuring the most opulent and expensive weddings. Little Rock, a city with a surprising amount of wealth, has two glossy society magazines that showcase glitzy parties and high-profile charity events.

Chelsea’s beau is Jewish, making a church wedding unlikely. But Hillary’s former church, First United Methodist, a Gothic church with deep historical roots, would make a beautiful setting at sunset with its stunning stained glass windows facing west.

When the Clintons lived in Little Rock, Bill attended Immanuel Baptist Church, which at the time was located in the heart of downtown. Today, the church, an enormous brick fortress that people jokingly call “Six Flags Over Jesus,” sits on a hill next door to a Kroger in suburban Little Rock. Certainly, not a picturesque site.

Fortunately for the former First Family of Arkansas, they have access to the perfect interfaith nuptial spot: The Clinton Presidential Library. The archive of his 8 years in the nation’s White House has sleek, modern architecture designed by James Polshek overlooking the Arkansas River. The Secret Service knows how to secure the library, which sits on a 16-acre city park. Its Great Hall that seats 300 people offers a striking view of the city’s skyline.

The library complex also houses Bill’s rooftop penthouse suite. Filled with original art from around the world, the penthouse features a landscaped outdoor terrace – the ultimate site for a late evening rehearsal dinner with fireworks exploding over the river in celebration of the couple.

To escape the hullabaloo of downtown, Chelsea could have the ceremony or a pre-wedding luncheon at a palatial home owned by one of the original FOBs.

Longtime FOB Kaki Hockersmith, who designed the White House living quarters for Bill and Hillary and worked on the interiors of Camp David and the Clinton Library, owns an Italian villa-style home on ritzy Edgehill.

Hockersmith and her husband, Max Mehlburger, have hosted many fundraisers for Bill, Hillary and other high-status national Democrats. Hockersmith was recently appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for The Kennedy Center.

Another likely locale is the multi-million dollar home Mike and Beth Coulson, wealthy Democratic donors. Mike Coulson is CEO of Coulson Oil Co. Beth Coulson, a philanthropist and former judge, was caught up in the Clinton scandals of the 1990s and is rumored to be Jane Doe #2 in the Paula Jones lawsuit against Bill Clinton.

A Southern wedding regardless of location must have plenty of flowers, food and music.

Roses and orchids are always the most popular among posh Arkansas brides but the native Purple Cone Flower adds a touch of the Natural State to arrangements.

FOB Billie Rutherford owns a popular catering business and is the go-to caterer for any Clinton function. Her husband, Skip, serves the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and supervised the building of the presidential library.

The menu needs a mix of healthy foods – maybe cool cucumber soup shooters and sliced Arkansas pink tomatoes – and regional cholesterol-heavy cuisine such as fried catfish bites and okra. Bill would find time to sneak steak at his long-time hang-out, Doe’s Eat Place or pizza at Vino’s Brewpub, which he visited in November.

Award-winning Diamond Bear Brewery, which already boasts a Presidential IPA, would undoubtedly concoct a new beer in honor of Chelsea. Maybe a First Daughter Ale?

Plenty of solid local bands inhabit Little Rock and some of their members attended grade school with Chelsea. But if she preferred global rock and roll, Bono and The Edge from U2 would fly in to perform. They performed at the opening of the presidential library. Maybe Mick Jagger would bring in the Rolling Stones. He and Bill recently shared a box at the World Cup in South Africa.

Another music possibility: Bill could tap actor Morgan Freeman, who lives three hours from Little Rock near Clarksdale, Miss., to invite some veteran blues masters to play sax with him at the reception.
There’s only one downside to a Little Rock wedding — gossip. Little Rock is a small city that thrives on media attention. But if Clintonites sent the signal for lips to be sealed, any wedding scoop would be locked down tighter than a presidential visit to Iraq.

Hopefully, for Little Rock, Chelsea hasn’t sealed the deal on New York. If the bride-to-be wants to feel extra special on her wedding day, it’s the city where she was born that would wrap their arms around her.