COLUMBIA, SC -- Though the South Carolina primary is still some two years away, presidential wannabes are already trekking to the state by the truckload. As the presidential prospects flock here, we will look at each candidates’ campaign, message, and chances as they woo South Carolinians to support their respective bids.
Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, the focus of this column, visited Spartanburg, South Carolina on February 20th and will visit another part of the state the first week of March.
Huckabee has some of the tools to be a star in South Carolina. He’s socially conservative; he helped pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage in Arkansas. He’s a former Baptist preacher and a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Huckabee walks the walk when it comes to spending. When the Little Rock Governor’s Mansion was under construction in 2000, Huckabee moved a double wide trailer onto the front lawn and lived there for over a year.
Huckabee’s road to a presidential bid is an interesting one. He’s a Republican governor in a largely Democratic state, yet he recieved a large portion of the black vote and has been able to work with the Democratic legislature to push through conservative policies.
Before Governor Huckabee spoke to the Spartanburg convention, he sat down with several news outlets, including Townhall.com. The following is a summary of his remarks.
Q: "How do you approach an event in South Carolina differently than Iowa or New Hampshire?"
Huckabee: "I try to be who I am. People sense authenticity, and they also sense phoniness."
Huckabee spoke at length of his principles—how the Arkansas establishment may disagree vehemently over certain positions or policies but ultimately respects him because he is clear on his stand. "I don’t change with the winds," he said. Furthermore, he added, and I summarize here, "political leadership is either thermostat or thermometer. Thermostats control the temperature and political climate. Thermometers merely reflect the climate. I want to be a thermostat and by standing my ground on issues. I can succeed…leaders have to risk offending and pushing in order to affect change."
Q: "With the federal government failing to control immigration, states like yours, with large illegal immigrant populations, mostly due to the agricultural industry, bear the brunt of the costs. What are your ideas to solve these problems?"
Huckabee: "We don’t want people to come here illegally, but the economy needs them to succeed."
Huckabee then expounded upon the need to secure the borders, know who the immigrants are, where they are going, what they are doing and how healthy they are. He also advocated eliminating the system that punishes only illegals and not businesses who hire them.
His first major accomplishment was to provide healthcare for children. While some conservatives do not see this as a legitimate function of government, he argued that it is. Said Huckabee: "When the government foots the bill for the uninsured, why not preempt some of the problems? Why wait for a catastrophe?"
Huckbee spoke at length on the issue of gay "marriage." Huckabee believes marriage deserves a thorough and honest public discussion and is proud that his state passed an amendment in defense of marriage during his tenure. He argued that the government cannot redefine what marriage is, no matter what types of relationships adults choose to have. Said Huckabee: "Throughout human history, marriage has always meant one thing—one man and one woman."
Huckabee is concerned with the culture of death prevailing in establishment politics. "How can we say it’s perfectly okay to sacrifice our children for our convenience?" he asked. He pointed to the mine disaster in West Virginia in January: "We are calling upon this nation to pray because there might be a life in that mine…when at the same time, thousands stand before the steps of the Supreme Court to demand the right to end a life that might not only exist, but definitely does exist."
Differences Between Republicans and Democrats
Huckabee went on to describe the differences between Republicans and Democrats and why he doesn’t think the Democrats will sweep the 2006 election. First, he said, "The Democracts have nothing in the way of new ideas…they offer no particular plans or programs. [Republicans, meanwhile] are always trying to reinvent, to change."
"Democrats offer nothing but opposition," Huckabee continued. "[Republicans] offer a dream, they offer a nightmare." At which point I asked, "What is your dream for America?" Huckabee responded, "I hope that children will grow up knowing they have a chance to live the American dream."
Though Huckabee spoke on all of the right topics to move the base in South Carolina and stands on the right side on most of the issues, he is not mentioned in political circles as a presidential front-runner. Top-notch political operatives are not scrambling to meet with him and his staff the way they are with other potential candidates. However, as the governor said, a lot can change in two years. Should Huckabee prove he is able to raise significant funds and continue sounding the right themes, his chances for success in South Carolina will improve significantly.