“…55 percent of Arkansas voters last year said they still liked Huckabee — 10 years after he first took office.”
The truth is that Mike Huckabee encourages everyone to look at his record, while Mitt Romney hopes everyone can forget all about his – that’s the basis for the relentless misleading attacks, otherwise people may actually inspect his record and ask “what in the world is this guy doing running as a Republican?”
Now for the article…..
By Mike Madden (text highlights are my own)
Gannett News Service
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Mike Huckabee may have been an unknown commodity to most of the country until a few weeks ago, but not here.
As governor for more than 10 years, Huckabee kept a high profile in Arkansas, whether he was pushing for highway improvements or exhorting his fellow citizens to lose weight. As lieutenant governor, the Republican Huckabee moved up in July 1996, when Democratic Gov. Jim Guy Tucker resigned after a fraud conviction. Huckabee then won two terms of his own.
He left the statehouse in January and started what looked like a long-shot presidential campaign. Now, propelled by support from evangelical Christians in Iowa, Huckabee leads polls there and is second to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in most national surveys.
For those who knew him here, Huckabee’s sudden rise in the GOP presidential campaign mirrored his career in Arkansas politics, where he blended social conservatism with economic populism and used his quick wit and roots as a Southern Baptist preacher to win over voters.
“The fact is that he placed himself squarely where most Arkansans are,” said Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, who runs the school’s Arkansas Poll.
Parry noted that 55 percent of Arkansas voters last year said they still liked Huckabee — 10 years after he first took office.
“(That’s) pretty respectable, especially for anyone who’s served more than six to eight years in public life,” Perry said.
On the campaign trail, Huckabee, 52, talks frequently and proudly about his accomplishments here — how he pushed for badly needed improvements to the state’s highway and road infrastructure; how he expanded ARKids First, the state’s health insurance program for children in poor and working-class families; how he championed school reforms that consolidated some rural districts, though he disagreed with the Democratic Legislature over the final shape of that plan.
He was occasionally more liberal than his campaign positions are now. On immigration, he pushed to allow in-state tuition for some illegal immigrant kids who graduated from Arkansas high schools, though he lost that fight. He recruited the Mexican government to open a consulate in the state, and he opposed a Republican bill in the Legislature that would have denied health care for illegal immigrants.
But throughout his tenure, Huckabee was a Republican governor in a Democratic state, with a constitution that limited the power he could wield on his own. That left him with a narrow margin to operate from in the state.
“He was a pragmatic conservative, not an ideologue, and I saw that as his strong point,” said Rex Nelson, Huckabee’s spokesman for most of his gubernatorial term and a former Arkansas political journalist.
Some of Huckabee’s pragmatic politicking infuriated the Republican base in Arkansas, especially his support for a variety of tax increases that helped fund some of the improvements he advocated. Huckabee campaigned aggressively for diesel and gas tax hikes to pay for road projects, for a sales tax increase to improve state parks and for a tax on nursing homes to cover Medicaid shortfalls. Though his campaign frequently touts the 90 taxes he cut overall, the state’s tax revenues increased during his tenure by almost $500 million.
“He thinks about government as running a business, and he needs more revenue to run his programs, and he doesn’t think twice about increasing those taxes,” said Patrick Briney, head of the Arkansas Republican Assembly, a conservative group that has been loudly critical of Huckabee’s tax record.
The Club for Growth, a national anti-tax organization, also has blasted Huckabee’s tax policy, buying hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising in New Hampshire and other key early primary states to attack him.
In debates and in stump speeches, Huckabee’s jokes and one-liners have helped him attract attention on the presidential trail. He also employed wit during his days as governor. But critics said he frequently took disagreements personally and that he could flash a temper that, so far, hasn’t appeared much in his national campaign.
He once ordered his press office to take the Arkansas Times, a Little Rock alternative weekly paper, off the list for news releases, and called conservative Republicans who differed with him on financial issues “Shiites,” implying they were radicals.
“If you did not agree with him on a policy issue, he took it personally,” said Randy Minton, of Ward, Ark., a former GOP lawmaker who was one of Huckabee’s critics during his four years in the Legislature. Minton campaigned for Huckabee during elections in the 1990s but split with him on taxes.
Huckabee mostly shrugs off such attacks, saying the taxes were necessary to pay for popular programs.
His allies point out that Minton and other critics are so conservative that they’re marginalized in Arkansas politics, a point analysts agree with.
“This is the scrutiny that I’ve been going through since I first put my name on the ballot in 1992, and for me, it’s sort of like, ‘Gosh, do they not have anything new?'” Huckabee said last week while campaigning in Iowa.
And among Arkansans, the affable nature that Huckabee displays on the campaign trail mostly helped keep him popular.
“He’s like a common guy,” said Ron Platzer, 65, a boat salesman from Hot Springs, Ark.