Mike Huckabee was on Fred Thompson’s turf Monday night, wooing the people who are supposed to be his bedrock base of support — evangelical Christians.
He told jokes, he spun stories and he tossed around Bible quotations like the ordained Baptist minister he is. He raised thousands of dollars for Franklin’s Williamson Christian College as the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for the school’s 10th anniversary — and not a penny for his own perpetually underfunded campaign. But he bought himself a lot of goodwill.
“It scares the daylights out of some people,” the former Arkansas governor joked of his dual status as politician and preacher.
“They know two things are probably going to happen: We’re going to be here a while and he’s going to ask us for money,” he said.
Thompson ‘cut and run’
He told the crowd in Union Station Monday night, “I’m not here to talk about politics.” Earlier in the day he lambasted Thompson — one of his main rivals for the Southern evangelical vote.
During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Thompson had announced that he would not support a constitutional ban on abortion. Huckabee pounced.
“Thompson’s comments … were disappointing and disheartening for those who were expecting him to be a solid voice for conservatives,” Huckabee said in a statement.
“The marriage and life amendments are critical issues for those of us who have been on the front lines of these cultural battles. Sen. Thompson’s philosophy seems to be more ‘cut and run’ when it comes to these issues, rather than stand and lead.”
Thompson fired back on Fox News: “I don’t need to justify myself to the governor,” he said. “Gov. Huckabee talks about this, I suppose, because it is the only conservative position he has got … He is very weak on immigration policy. He was one of the highest taxing governors that we had in this country … so I can understand why he might want to talk solely about this issue.”
For Huckabee supporters in Tennessee, his bright-line stand on issues like abortion are a big part of his appeal.
“He’s got the right message,” said Sgt. Anthony Juarez of Clarksville.
Soldier made special trip
In one week, Juarez ships out for Iraq and his second tour of duty in the war zone. There are a million things he could have done with his last Monday evening at home.
He decided to spend it in Nashville — with Mike Huckabee.
“I just wanted to hear him talk,” said Juarez, who drove from Clarksville with his wife Tamiko to hear the dark-horse Republican presidential candidate speak — even though neither one of them had bought the $150 tickets to the fundraiser.
Bryan Baskin of La Vergne also crashed the fundraiser to hear Huckabee speak.
“He’s conservative, he’s competent and he’s likable. Huckabee reminds me a lot of Reagan,” he said. “Fred Thompson’s been all the rage here in Tennessee, but I think Huckabee is the real conservative in the race.”