Will Brownbackers Back Huckabee?

In a continuing look at presidential hopefuls, the Register examines the background, stands and prospects of the former Arkansas governor.

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is gradually building support among religious voters, particularly after a well received speech at last month’s Values Voters Summit in Washington D.C.

“I come today as one not who comes to you, but as one who comes from you.” said Huckabee, a former Baptist minister. “You are my roots.”

The conference made headlines, as Republican candidates for president gave speeches about their positions on several issues of concern to Catholics, such as abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage.”

Huckabee also grabbed attendees of the summit by placing religious principles above party loyalty. “I want to make it very clear that for me, I do not spell G-O-D, G-O-P.” he said to loud applause. “Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important than anybody’s political party.”

Huckabee won the straw poll among conference attendees.

“It was a very, very impressive speech,” said Kevin Tracy, a Catholic blogger who attended as a supporter of Huckabee, “Huckabee clearly won the crowd over, and energized everybody.”

Huckabee won two consecutive terms as Arkansas governor beginning in 1996. That’s the year former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton prepared for his second term as president.

Huckabee’s committed principles against embryonic stem-cell research, same-sex “marriage” and abortion are sitting well with religious voters, as a candidate who has a proven record for pushing through legislative successes in Arkansas.

Huckabee’s résumé includes his strong pro-life record, passing several legislative efforts to support pro-life principles.

“He was very supportive and in fact pro-active with pro-life legislation,” said Rose Mimms, executive director for Arkansas Right to Life. Mimms noted that Huckabee was vocal about his pro-life views and joined annual pro-life protest marches while he was governor.

Huckabee signed a partial-birth abortion ban in the state during his first term as governor, and also signed bans on assisted suicide and human cloning. Huckabee also signed a parental consent law for minors obtaining abortions and legislation requiring abortion clinics to offer the option of anesthesia for babies, to reduce fetal pain.

Pro-life Victories

One of his greatest pro-life victories was leading an Arkansas effort that passed a human life amendment to the state constitution.

“I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life,” Huckabee said in a statement released by his campaign. “My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering.”

Arkansas is considered to be a mostly Democrat state, but remains in line with the GOP platform, not the Democratic platform, on abortion. The state also passed a measure banning same-sex “marriage” in 2004, as well as an amendment banning human cloning.

“Many of our priorities he made his own priorities in his legislative packages,” added Mimms, on Huckabee’s pro-life record. “We could not have had a better friend in Arkansas than the governor’s office of Mike Huckabee.”

Huckabee’s jump in Republican primary polls came after the Ames straw poll in Iowa, when he came in second to Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in the top tier.

Prior to the straw poll, as campaigns competed for voters’ support in Iowa, fellow GOP candidate Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., challenged Huckabee to denounce an anti-Catholic letter circulated in Iowa from one of his supporters.

“I know Sen. Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002,” Rev. Tim Rude, pastor of Walnut Creek Community Church in Des Moines, Iowa, wrote in the e-mail. “Frankly, as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the governor’s.”

Huckabee responded strongly against the letter.

“I consider Sam Brownback a Christian brother and know that he feels likewise toward me. Like Sen. Brownback, several key members of my staff are Roman Catholic,” he said in a statement released by his campaign. “As believers, we don’t have time to fight each other.”

Rude also apologized for the e-mail, adding that if Huckabee dropped out of the race, he would support Brownback.

Now that Brownback has dropped out of the race, Huckabee supporters are wondering if Brownbackers will gravitate towards Huckabee.

“I think that a lot of Brownback supporters are now taking a closer look at Huckabee,” said Tracy. “There are a lot of social issues that attract Catholic voters, and he is also a great communicator who is also very likable.”

Kirsten Fedewa, a media spokeswoman for Huckabee, agreed. “He [Huckabee] and Sen. Brownback share a similar point of view on many topics. I think that’s why so many of Sen. Brownback’s supporters are attracted to the governor’s campaign.”

Brian Burch, of Fidelis America, agreed that Catholic voters had a lot in common with key issues of Huckabee’s candidacy but remain divided.

“The vast majority of social conservatives, be they Catholic or otherwise, are still evenly split across four different campaigns.” he said. “As a pro-life, pro-family candidate, Huckabee is hard to ignore, but at the same time many voters do not think he has the strength to compete at this stage in the primaries.”

Charlie Spiering writes from

Washington, D.C.