Robert Novak
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WASHINGTON -- Republican insiders, puzzled by the sudden rise of Mike Huckabee as a serious presidential candidate, are overlooking the role played for him by actor Chuck Norris.

Called "Huckabee's Oprah" in Hollywood, Norris is helping the former governor of Arkansas in much the same way that Oprah Winfrey boosts Sen. Barack Obama's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Huckabee began his ascent from the depths of the second tier of candidates after his endorsement in late October by Norris, called the "marshal of martial arts."

Norris's endorsement is featured in a Huckabee TV ad, which his money-short campaign has run mainly in Iowa and on the Internet. Norris may be no big deal in New York and Washington, but he is a folk hero with ordinary Iowans and has helped push Huckabee ahead of Mitt Romney in polls forecasting the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. The Norris endorsement may be a bigger factor in Iowa than evangelical support for Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister.

PRO-LIFE W?

George W. Bush, who has been repeatedly described by his staff as the "most pro-life president in history," again will miss the annual anti-abortion March for Life in Washington Jan. 22 and instead make a live phone call to participants.

This time, President Bush will be in the Middle East the day of the march. He has called the pro-life demonstrators from Manhattan, Kan., from Camp David and from Roswell, N.M., in recent years. That the president usually ends up out of Washington is annoying to thousands of pro-life activists who take buses to the nation's capital.

"President Bush is the most pro-life president in history," was one of the talking points sent out by Bush headquarters during the 2004 campaign. Tim Goeglein, the White House liaison with religious groups, has said: "George W. Bush is the most pro-life president in American history."

BOXER'S REVENGE

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, a personal friend and political ally of the Clintons, is behind a nearly year-long blocking of California Superior Court Judge Jim Rogan for a federal judgeship because he was one of the 13 House impeachment managers of President Bill Clinton.

President Bush in January nominated Rogan as a district judge in Los Angeles. Ordinarily, district court nominees do not experience the confirmation difficulties of an appellate judge. Boxer has prevented Senate action on Rogan, informing this column he is not in the "mainstream."

A former Democrat, Rogan served two terms in Congress representing a heavily Democratic Southern California district but was defeated for re-election in 2000. He was named as a Superior Court judge in 2006 by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

RAHM'S REPUBLICANS

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, won private praise Wednesday from several conservative Republican senators when he launched an attack on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Emanuel attacked McConnell's plan to keep federal spending at President Bush's recommended level but find room for individual earmarks by cutting everything across the board. Emanuel said McConnell is "fighting for earmarks over funding for cancer cures, the veterans' health care crisis and 50,000 new American teachers." He charged that McConnell's "own re-election campaign would come first."

That is precisely what anti-earmark Republicans have been saying in private but do not want to say publicly for the sake of party unity.

THOMPSON'S CONSERVATIVE

The endorsement of Fred Thompson's presidential candidacy by Morton Blackwell, longtime Republican National committeeman from Virginia and a prominent conservative activist, was announced Tuesday a silent month after it was made.

Blackwell's support had been sought by Thompson. After due consideration, Blackwell decided Thompson was the best conservative who could be nominated. He so informed the Thompson campaign of his decision but then heard nothing until Tuesday's announcement.

The intervening month was a time when Thompson could have benefited from good news. Several Republicans trying to help Thompson have found their overtures rebuffed.

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Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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