Posted: October 1, 2007 7:04 PM
Huckabee Pulls Ahead in Darkhorse Race
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won praise from both sides of the political spectrum on Sunday’s talk shows, with ideological rivals former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former President Bill Clinton calling him the most likely second-tier Republican candidate to pull into the front ranks.
“If Huckabee can find money, he will be dramatically competitive almost overnight. He’s probably the best performer in terms of giving speeches and being appealing,” Gingrich said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolis.”
Appearing separately on the same broadcast, Bill Clinton called Huckabee the only Republican “darkhorse that’s got any kind of chance.” Clinton and Huckabee are both former governors of Arkansas and grew up in the same town of Hope, Ark.
On Friday, Huckabee openly challenged a number of President Bush’s major foreign policy decisions and said a Huckabee presidency would expand U.S. diplomatic efforts around the world and bring an end to the current administration’s practice of refusing to talk to countries it deems hostile to American interests.
In a speech laying out his own foreign policy platform at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Huckabee said restricting dialogue with unfriendly governments had not been fruitful.
“We haven’t had diplomatic relations with Iran for almost 30 years … and a lot of good it’s done.” He also said U.S. officials had ignored alternatives to war with Iraq, and that the practice of relying on a small group of Iraqi expatriates for intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s regime ahead of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion was misguided. “Before we put boots on the ground in the future, we better have wingtips there first,” he said. But he also ruled out a U.S. troop withdrawal anytime soon, saying that would leave Iraq in “chaos.”
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, also called for a softer U.S. tone across the Middle East. He said appealing to moderate Muslims would reduce the ranks of potential terrorist recruits. “If we don’t do the right thing and make life better in the Islamic world, then terrorists will step in and do the wrong thing.”
In remarks following his address, Huckabee told The Boston Globe he would deal decisively with al-Qaida inside Pakistan, including taking possible unilateral military action. But he emphasized that as president he would agree to meetings with rogue leaders and adversarial governments in order to keep diplomatic channels open. “[It is] bullheaded to say we’re not going to have a conversations with these people.”
On Thursday, Huckabee chided four of his fellow Republican hopefuls for skipping a PBS debate in Baltimore focused on U.S. minority issues. The four front-runners, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, all stayed away from the Morgan State University venue Thursday night, citing scheduling conflicts. Huckabee, one of the other six candidates present for the forum, called that a mistake.
“Frankly, I am embarrassed for our party. And I am embarrassed for those who did not come,” he said. “Because there has long been a divide in this country, and it doesn’t get better when we don’t show up.”
Huckabee spent Monday campaigning in New Hampshire.