Posted: October 29, 2007 1:14 PM
Huckabee Proposes Social Security Reforms; Charms Conservatives
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee laid out some of his ideas to reform Social Security at a Republican forum sponsored by the AARP, the nation’s largest advocacy group for seniors. He told the 700 attendees in Sioux City, Iowa, that he favored offering retirees the option of taking a one-time payout from Social Security.
He also touted his so-called “Fair Tax” plan, a proposed national sales tax that he says would encourage personal savings. And he said the Bush administration’s choice of words when it proposed “privatized accounts” to reform Social Security had hampered the effort. “A better word would be personalized accounts,” he told the crowd, “to empower you as a consumer to look out there on the horizon and make some decisions about your life and your money. And the government would be a partner.”
The AARP has opposed private accounts as part of Social Security reform.
Only two candidates from the Republican field, Huckabee and Arizona Sen. John McCain showed up for the debate. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback had been expected, but he dropped out of the race last week. The remaining six candidates stayed away, some citing scheduling conflicts, others perhaps suffering from debate-fatigue.
“If we went to every single debate offered, that’s all we’d be doing,” Tim Albrecht, spokesman for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, said.
Huckabee expressed puzzlement at their absence. “I don’t know what they are afraid of,” he said. “They’re the losers for not being here for the discussion.”
The previous weekend, all the Republican presidential candidates faced off at the “Value Voters” summit in Washington, D.C., to vie for the support of conservative Christian voters. Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, wooed the crowd with his sermon-like speech, reminding them he was one of their own. “I come today not as one who comes to you, but as one who comes from you. You are my roots.”
His message seemed to take. The official results of a straw poll released by the Family Research Council at the conclusion of the event had Huckabee trailing Romney for first place by a mere 30 votes out of 5,576. And when the numbers were broken down between those in attendance and those who had voted on-line, Huckabee won the room by a landslide, taking 51 percent of the on-site ballot. That compared with 10 percent for Romney and 6 percent for current front-runner former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Christian conservatives are predicted to account for more than half the turn-out in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses in early January. Recent polls show Huckabee’s support in the state now in double digits.