Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee jumped into the Republican presidential race Tuesday, launching his second bid for the White House. Huckabee kicked off his campaign with an elaborate event in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas. If that town sounds familiar it's because former President Bill Clinton also grew up in Hope and famously ended his 1992 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in New York with, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”
Huckabee launched his second White House campaign with an indictment of the Obama administration and a pitch to working class Americans worried about their jobs and social conservatives who share his opposition to abortion and gay marriage. “America’s leadership in the world is completely evaporated and the country is more polarized than ever in my lifetime. We were promised hope but it was just talk. And now we need the kind of change that really could get America from hope to higher ground!”
Foreign Policy Hawk
On foreign policy, Huckabee vowed closer relations with Israel and a strong U.S. response to the threat of radical Islam. Huckabee said that if elected, he would not merely try to “contain jihadism” but vowed to, in his words, “conquer it.” “We will deal with jihadis just as we would deal with deadly snakes,” Huckabee added. “Let there be no doubt that Israel will know, as will the whole world that we are their trusted friend and the ayatollahs of Iran will know that hell will freeze over before they get a nuclear weapon!”
Huckabee is 59 and last ran for president in 2008. He won the Iowa caucuses with help from social conservatives and eventually won eight state primaries. But he ran out of money and finished behind eventual nominee John McCain. During that campaign many analysts noted that Huckabee seemed to have trouble broadening his message beyond social conservatives to other factions of the Republican Party.
Pitching to Social Conservatives
In his second run, Huckabee is expected to emphasize a national consumption tax plus social issues popular with evangelical Christians, especially his opposition to abortion and gay marriage.
U.S. presidential candidates, as of May 5, 2016
But analysts said that like other Republican contenders he will talk a lot about foreign policy and national security issues. “I think when all is said and done and we get to the general election in 2016, you going to have three issues: economic mobility, jobs and national security. And while they do overlap the ability for Republicans to distinguish themselves with the Republican primary on national security is going to be very, very important,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
Huckabee becomes the sixth officially announced Republican candidate. His announcement came one day after former tech executive Carly Fiorina and returned surgeon Ben Carson joined the Republican field. Three Republican senators announced last month: Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul from Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.
The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found former Florida governor Jeb Bush leading the field with 23 percent, followed by Rubio at 18 percent, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 14 percent and Paul and Cruz both at 11 percent. Huckabee was well down the list with only five percent.