Posted: January 28, 2008 6:39 PM
Huckabee Hopes to Upset Giuliani, Romney in Florida Contest
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appears to be gaining renewed prominence in the Republican presidential primary race, though he still lags behind in the polls. He has not won a race since his come-from-behind victory in the Iowa caucuses early this month. But now in Florida, he may be positioned to influence the race anew, this time as potential spoiler for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and gadfly to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
In a tracking poll of Republican Florida voters taken over the weekend, Huckabee edged Giuliani, the former national front-runner, out of third place.
To finish that far back in the pack in Tuesday’s winner-take-all primary could be devastating to Giuliani’s presidential bid. The former New York City mayor has devoted nearly all his time and money to Florida while his rivals hopped contest-to-contest.
Current front-runners Arizona Sen. John McCain and Romney are essentially tied for the lead in Florida.
Huckabee has begun to open up on Romney in recent days, while defending McCain, both implicitly and directly.
On “Fox News Sunday” he said of his relationship with McCain: “We have a civil approach to presidential process. Neither of us has sought the office by cracking the kneecaps of the other.” He went on to say, “I have never seen John McCain say something that is just blatantly untrue.”
He had no similar praise for Romney.
When asked to weigh in on a dispute over whether Romney had ever called for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, something Romney denies, Huckabee said: “There were published reports that I’ve seen in which Mitt Romney did in fact talk about support for, not a public timetable, but a secret timetable that would be held by administration officials and members of Congress.”
The former Baptist minister also said he “was not impressed” with Romney’s business experience, something Romney has claimed that sets him apart from his less commerce-savvy rivals. Huckabee said he recognized the growing economic strife taking hold in many American communities ahead of his rivals.
“When Mitt Romney and the other Republicans a few months ago in Dearborn, Mich., at the debate were talking about how great the economy was, I was jeered and sneered, but I was the one saying it may not be that great,” Huckabee asserted. “I was understanding that, seeing it, predicting it. People were laughing at me then. Now they have to admit that I was right.”
After Florida, the candidates begin a marathon week of interstate campaigning ahead of Super Tuesday. The Feb. 5 contests, when 21 states from New York to California hold Republican primaries, could be decisive in choosing a GOP nominee.