Ken Blackwell
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There’s another governor from Hope, Ark., seeking to become the president of America. He’s Mike Huckabee. And while many would think that his hometown is the only thing Mr. Huckabee has in common with President Clinton, they share one other thing as well: Mr. Huckabee knows how to appeal to both the party base and middle America at the same time.

Just as New Hampshire made Bill Clinton the comeback kid in 1992, this weekend’s Iowa straw poll could do the same for the charismatic, but underfunded Mr. Huckabee, especially since Messrs. Giuliani and McCain have backed out of it and Mr. Thompson isn’t even in it.

At first glance, Governor Huckabee seems to be a ready-made ideal candidate for social conservatives. He’s an ordained Baptist pastor, with a seminary degree, lifelong conservative views on religion, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the Second Amendment.

Yet at the same time, Mr. Huckabee has the ability to explain his views on divisive issues in a way that doesn’t alienate those who differ with his policy stances.

However, Mr. Huckabee’s full range of issues includes stances on education, health care, and social services that manage to win widespread support among moderate voters. Mr. Huckabee, who lost over 100 pounds in the past five years, speaks energetically about refocusing American health care efforts on prevention such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and early detection of illness.

While his record on economic issues is not touted as a conservative triumph, there were circumstances such as mandates from the Supreme Court of Arkansas that leave open the question of exactly how much choice the governor had on some of those spending items.

But the questions GOP voters have about the frontrunners’ conservatism revolve around the social issues, and on those Mr. Huckabee is as consistent as it gets.

In many election cycles, a person with more than 10 years as governor of a swing state, with a compelling personal story, and the ability to communicate normally would be a top tier candidate. But we’re in an election cycle like no other.

It’s a real challenge in this stunningly front-loaded cycle for Mr. Huckabee to get the funds or necessary attention to take the nomination. He gives great stump speeches, is a fantastic campaigner and debater, truly connects with people, and knows how to take charge of a room.

And even with an unprecedented primary schedule that could have both party nominees in less than four weeks, he’s managed to slowly climb in the polls through his relentless campaigning and debate performances. Pollsters and pundits have lauded him as one of the best, if not the best, candidate in the televised debates thus far.

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Ken Blackwell

Ken Blackwell, a contributing editor at Townhall.com, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union and is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is the co-author of the bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, on sale in bookstores everywhere..
 
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