Huck­abee stirs up third-party fear; con­ser­va­tives ques­tion his fis­cal poli­cies

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ralph Z. Hallow

A bit­ter fight is tak­ing place be­hind the scenes over Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Mike Huck­abee.

In­flu­en­tial con­ser­va­tives are clashing over whether Mr. Huck­abee is ca­pa­ble of keep­ing evan­gel­i­cals from flee­ing the GOP to form a third party or if he’s too lib­eral fis­cally for the Repub­li­can elec­torate.

The bat­tle is bub­bling into the pub­lic arena, fu­eled by fears that a three-way race could hand the pres­i­dency to Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton or an­other Demo­crat, and by mur­murs of Mr. Huck­abee as a vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date on the party’s ticket.

“We called him a pro-life, pro­gun lib­eral, when I was in the state leg­is­la­ture and he was gov­er­nor,” said Randy Minton, chair­man of the Arkansas chap­ter of Phyl­lis Sch­lafly’s na­tional Ea­gle Fo­rum.

Mr. Minton voices the con­cerns of many con­ser­va­tives that while Mr. Huck­abee gov­erned as a so­cial con­ser­va­tive in op­pos­ing abor­tion and same-sex “mar­riage,” he was a treach­er­ous lib­eral on taxes, so­cial wel­fare spend­ing and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

But Mr. Huck­abee’s back­ers say he’s just who the con­ser­va­tive party lead­ers should be look­ing to if they hope to pre­vent a dan­ger­ous frac­ture.

“The talk of a third party is not only po­lit­i­cal sui­cide, it is po­lit­i­cal homi­cide, with Hil­lary a co-spon­sor of the so-called ‘Free­dom of Choice Act’ that would wipe off ev­ery pro-life law from parental no­tice to the ban on par­tial-birth abor­tions in all 50 states,” said Chris­tian ra­dio talk-show host Janet L. Fol­ger.

“Do you know an­other Repub­li­can be­sides Huck­abee who got 48 per­cent of the African-Amer­i­can vote?” she said. “Add to that a mo­bi­lized Repub­li­can base, and there is no one bet­ter than Huck­abee to take on Hil­lary.”

Kelly J. Shack­elford, pres­i­dent of the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion, said the for­mer Arkansas gov­er­nor “doesn’t just talk about con­ser­va­tive is­sues, he breathes them and has a pas­sion for them.”

The fight is only grow­ing more bit­ter as Mr. Huck­abee’s poll num­bers and re­cep­tion im­prove.

Mrs. Sch­lafly, one of the most re­spected lead­ers in the so­cial-con­ser­va­tive move­ment, has ac­cused Mr. Huck­abee of “de­stroy­ing” the con­ser­va­tive move­ment in Arkansas and leav­ing the GOP “in sham­bles.” She says many of the evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians who “sold” so­cial con­ser­va­tive vot­ers on Pres- ident Bush in 2000 are now “try­ing to sell us on Mike Huck­abee.”

Crit­ics want to block con­sid­er­a­tion of Mr. Huck­abee, an or­dained South­ern Bap­tist min­is­ter, as a run­ning mate for Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, the pro-choice for­mer New York mayor, or for Mitt Rom­ney, a Mor­mon and for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor.

Most an­noy­ing to some con­ser­va­tives are Mr. Huck­abee’s po­si­tions on im­mi­gra­tion. For many Repub­li­cans, im­mi­gra­tion is the deal-breaker in judg­ing which can­di­date is wor­thy of sup­port.

“Rudy Gi­u­liani spent years de­fend­ing the right of New York City to re­main a sanc­tu­ary for il­le­gal aliens. Yet Gi­u­liani was a ver­i­ta­ble Lou Dobbs Jr. on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in com­par­i­son to Mike Huck­abee,” said Jim Boulet Jr., ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of English First, a Spring­field, Va., lob­by­ing group. Mr. Dobbs is a CNN com­men­ta­tor who pur­sues a tough line against amnesty for il­le­gal aliens.

“Huck­abee’s prin­ci­ples re­gard­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion seem to vary de­pend­ing upon his phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion,” Mr. Boulet said. “When in Iowa, pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Huck­abee talks tough on border se­cu­rity. But for years in Arkansas, Gov­er­nor Huck­abee talked even tougher when any­one dared com­plain about the costs of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.” Not so, said Mrs. Fol­ger. “Huck­abee is not only right on the pr­ereq­ui­sites of life and mar­riage, but said ‘no’ to amnesty and sanc­tu­ary cities and wants to se­cure the borders be­fore we ‘even dis­cuss any­thing else.’ He gets it,” said Mrs. Fol­ger, pres­i­dent of Faith2Ac­tion.

Mr. Minton thinks Mr. Huck­abee is try­ing to re­make his im­age on im­mi­gra­tion.

“Un­til of late, he has been an open-borders guy on im­mi­gra­tion — amnesty, the whole works,” Mr. Minton said. “As gov­er­nor, he wanted to give free col­lege schol­ar­ships to all il­le­gals.”

Arkansas con­ser­va­tives also do not re­gard Mr. Huck­abee as a “fis­cally con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can” and see him as a “tax and spen­der,” said Mr. Minton, a for­mer state law­maker.

Mr. Huck­abee got pum­meled by crit­ics on the right when he re­sorted to tax in­creases in Arkansas to meet so­cial needs in his state, he told The Wash­ing­ton Times af­ter­ward.

In Oc­to­ber, the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, the state’s largest­cir­cu­la­tion news­pa­per, pub­lished a re­port on Mr. Huck­abee’s fis­cal record, noth­ing that he “boasts of 90 tax cuts dur­ing his ten­ure, which ended in Jan­uary.”

But the pa­per’s own re­view showed a “net tax in­crease of $505 mil­lion, a fig­ure ad­justed for in­fla­tion and eco­nomic growth, ac­cord­ing to the [Arkansas] De­part­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mr. Huck­abee, how­ever, can claim get­ting one of the largest tax re­duc­tions in state his­tory through the leg­is­la­ture, to­tal­ing about $90.6 mil­lion in its first full year in ef­fect.

Un­til re­cently, he had re­fused to sign the fa­mous no-tax pledge of­fered to can­di­dates by Grover Norquist, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Tax Re­form.

Mr. Norquist, who is neu­tral on the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, said: “The most im­por­tant thing Huck­abee can do is help Repub­li­cans to keep that Se­nate. He is the only Repub­li­can in Arkansas who can beat a Demo­crat for the Se­nate.”

“We called him a pro-life, pro-gun lib­eral.” Mike Huck­abee

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