Dallas Morning News: Huckabee good investment in GOP’s future

The Dallas Morning News published an editorial Sunday supporting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, despite saying he has no chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Though Sen. John McCain of Arizona is the presumptive nominee and “it is mathematically impossible” for Huckabee to pull ahead in delegates, Huckabee “remains our choice for the GOP nomination,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote, just two days before the state’s primary.

This is not the first time the paper has endorsed Huckabee. Last month, it called him a “a progressive conservative with a pastor’s heart.”

And in December, it called him “decent, principled and empathetic to the views and concerns of others — an antidote to the power-mad partisanship that has led U.S. politics to a dispiriting standstill.”

The Dallas Morning News also endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the piece published Sunday, the newspaper’s editorial board wrote, “True, a Huckabee vote today won’t do much to determine the 2008 GOP presidential candidate.”

It added, “But it’s a good investment in the Republican Party’s future.”

McCain has 1,033 delegates to Huckabee’s 247, according to CNN calculations. A candidate needs 1,191 to seal the Republican nomination.

McCain appears to hold a comfortable lead in Texas. Recent polls indicate he is the choice of 58 percent of the state’s likely Republican voters, while Huckabee trails with 30 percent.

The Republican Texas “poll of polls” consists of three surveys: American Research Group (February 29-March 1), Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle/Zogby (February 28-March 1), and Belo/Public Strategies (February 26-28).

McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has “long experience and personal courage” and “a solid record of fiscal responsibility,” the newspaper said.

It added that he “has been on the right side of campaign finance reform and environmental issues” and credited him as “correct and principled to lead the fight for comprehensive immigration reform last summer.”

But the board added that McCain’s age, 71, “and his choleric temperament gave us pause, particularly when contrasted to Mr. Huckabee’s sunny-side-up brand of conservatism.”

The paper lauded Huckabee’s views on the environment and described him as “a compassionate conservative” on economic matters.

“Though his social and religious conservatism puts him on the wrong side of abortion, gay rights and other key issues, that same deep-faith commitment inspires his dedication to helping the poor and to racial healing,” the board said.

Huckabee’s youth, pragmatism and “good-natured approach to politics” mean he could play a role in GOP politics for many years, the paper said.

“That’s why we encourage Texas Republicans to mark their ballots for Mr. Huckabee in the GOP primary: to demonstrate to the party’s elite that Mr. Huckabee and his vision have a solid constituency.”

Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont all hold contests March 4.

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Huckabee Meets With Christian Leader James Dobson

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee met with conservative Christian leader James Dobson Friday as he vied to pick up the Colorado delegates pledged to Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race.

Huckabee’s visit comes two weeks after Dobson endorsed him for president.

“Personally it was a great encouragement,” Huckabee said of the endorsement. “I think it also was an extraordinary boost for our campaign because Dr. Dobson is seen as such a true national leader when it comes to issues of life, marriage and family.”

Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister and a former governor of Arkansas. His campaign has been kept alive in part by support from conservative Christians who don’t want to back Arizona Senator John McCain.

Appearing without Dobson at a podium on a lawn outside the campus of Focus on the Family, Huckabee declined to describe what he and his friend of 14 years discussed.

Huckabee, who was in Colorado Springs to speak Friday night to the conservative group, Leadership Program of the Rockies, said the meeting was “personal” in nature and “not a meeting that I was having with him in his capacity as the leader of Focus on the Family.”

Although Huckabee said Dobson’s backing has helped him, he doubts the Focus on the Family founder will be campaigning for him.

“I think it would be very difficult for him to go on the campaign trail,” Huckabee said. “I did not ask for that, and I would not expect that.”

Through a spokesman, Dobson also declined to describe the conversation and cautioned against reading into why he didn’t appear with Huckabee.

“This was a long-planned private conversation between two friends and Dr. Dobson wanted to keep it that way,” said Gary Schneeberger, a Dobson spokesman. “It’s certainly not meant to temper his support of the governor.”

He said Dobson would not comment on a private meeting. Schneeberger also said Dobson was sensitive to IRS rules that restrict tax-exempt groups like Focus on the Family from getting involved in politics. When Dobson endorses political candidates, he emphasizes he is speaking as an individual and not for the group.

Many political observers believe Huckabee, with 254 delegates, doesn’t have a chance of catching McCain, who has 958 delegates of the 1,191 needed to win the nomination. Romney, who dropped out of the race earlier this month after picking up 280 delegates, has endorsed McCain.

That hasn’t discouraged Huckabee.

“There’s 46 delegates at stake in Colorado that could be mine,” Huckabee told dozens of cheering supporters.

Dick Wadhams, Colorado chair of the Republican Party, said that that the Feb. 5 caucus — where Huckabee came in third after Romney and McCain — was a “preference poll” and that delegates are still up for grabs.

Huckabee also commented about a New York Times article Thursday alleging that McCain’s staffers were concerned about a relationship with a female lobbyist during his first presidential run eight years ago. McCain and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, have denied they had a romantic relationship.

“My only experience with (McCain) as a fellow candidate the past 14 months is a positive one,” Huckabee said. “I see him as a man of integrity. He’s denied the allegations in the New York Times article. I have no reason to doubt him.”

Mimi Hailes, 50, of Colorado Springs has been working on Huckabee’s campaign in Colorado and it was thrill to meet him and see him person.

“I told him that I’ve been praying for him and that I pray for him every day,” Hailes said. “I’m very hopeful that he’s still going to be our candidate.”

Huckabee to Get Evangelical Leader’s Nod

Well – as my readers read here,

This should come as no surprise…  read on:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

James Dobson, one of the nation’s most prominent evangelical Christian leaders, is about to endorse former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, The Associated Press has learned.

Dobson, founder of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, talked to the GOP presidential hopeful Thursday and later was to release a statement explaining his choice, said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Dobson.

Huckabee had long sought Dobson’s endorsement, believing he is the best fit to advance Dobson’s conservative, moral worldview.

Until now, Dobson had never endorsed a GOP presidential hopeful during the primary campaign. But he ruled out front-runner John McCain in a blistering commentary on Super Tuesday, and on Thursday the fight for the GOP nomination narrowed to a two-man race between McCain and Huckabee, who is far behind in the delegate count but pledged to fight on. Mitt Romney, a third hopeful trying to claim the conservative label, dropped out of the race Thursday.

Dobson released a statement Tuesday that criticized McCain for his support of embryonic stem cell research, his opposition to a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and for his temper and use of foul language.

He said if McCain were the nominee, he would not cast a ballot for president for the first time in his life.

Dobson had left open the possibility that he would vote for either Romney or Huckabee, but endorsed neither.

Throughout the unsettled GOP race, Dobson picked his spots to signal that some candidates simply didn’t meet his standards. Dobson wrote on a conservative news Web site that he wouldn’t support former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani should he win the Republican nomination. Dobson called Giuliani an “unapologetic supporter of abortion on demand” and criticized him for signing a bill in 1997 creating domestic-partnership benefits in New York City.

At one point, Dobson said he’d consider voting for a minor-party candidate if faced with Giuliani as the nominee.

Later, Dobson ruled out former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson for his stands on issues. Dobson also said Thompson “has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.'”

Dobson emphasizes that when he endorses candidates, he is doing so as a private citizen and not as a representative of Focus on the Family, a tax-exempt organization.

Black Religious Leaders Endorse Huckabee

(AP) Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at a lengthy memorial service Monday at King’s old church and was endorsed by several black religious leaders.

While his main GOP rivals campaigned in Florida, Huckabee sat quietly through a nearly four-hour King ceremony at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was overshadowed by fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton, who received a long ovation for his 18-minute address.

The former president acknowledged Huckabee, who did not speak. “We don’t agree on much, but he is a very good man,” Clinton told the audience of several hundred.

Huckabee said he was willing to put aside campaigning for a half day to attend the King event, which he called inspiring.

The former Arkansas governor finished second in the South Carolina Republican primary over the weekend after campaigning in which he said the federal government should stay out of disputes over display of the Confederate battle flag in the state. He said last week, “If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole, that’s what we’d do.”

The flag is a symbol of racism to some, of Southern pride to others.

After his South Carolina loss, Huckabee needs strong showings in states such as Florida, Georgia and Alabama to keep his campaign alive. He went to Orlando for a late-afternoon rally and fundraiser Monday and planned to return to Atlanta Tuesday for an anti-abortion event.

“Winning Florida would be great,” Huckabee told an Orlando airport crowd of about 100, speaking of the state’s Jan. 29 GOP primary. But winning the nomination is the bigger goal, he said. “Nobody is going to have this wrapped up by Florida,” he said.

“We plan on carrying Georgia,” Huckabee told reporters.

After leaving the King ceremony, Huckabee was endorsed by three dozen African-Americans, most of them connected to conservative religious organizations.

Huckabee’s strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage matches the “high moral values” of many black Americans, said William Owens, founder of a group called the Coalition of African American Pastors.

SC Lt. Gov. Endorses Mike Huckabee

By Team Huckabee
Columbia, SC — South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer endorsed Mike Huckabee for President, it was announced today. Bauer will join Huckabee as well as Former Governor David Beasley, State Chairman Mike Campbell , Chuck Norris, and Ric Flair on the campaign trail on Thursday.

Bauer stated, “I, like many voters, have been previously undecided, but this election is too important to sit on the sidelines.  This week, I have decided to vote for Mike Huckabee, and I urge all South Carolinians to join me in voting for Mike Huckabee this Saturday. Simply put, I believe Mike Huckabee is the best of several fine candidates to lead America .  As America faces tough times, Mike Huckabee has the character, integrity, and proven leadership to ensure our greatest days are yet to come.”

“Also, I’ve tried to carefully compare each candidate’s position as it relates to issues affecting senior citizens, and I’ve concluded that Mike Huckabee is a sound choice for senior citizens,”  Bauer said.  As Lt. Governor, Bauer heads the state’s office on aging.

Bauer also said he admires Huckabee’s ability to win against the odds, noting that he, too, has a history of winning races considered to be upsets.

“Nobody knows better than I do that it’s the people, not the polls, which determines the winner on election day,” Bauer said.  “I believe the fact that Mike Huckabee has stayed positive while others have waged negative campaigns against him, will sway undecided voters toward him.  I believe it speaks to his character.”

Huckabee stated, “I welcome Andre’s support and am glad to have him on board Team Huckabee. I’m really pleased to have the support of a leader with such a solid record of achievement and a reputation for hard work and being a servant of the people, who shares my commitment to conservative governance.”

Bauer, who is serving his second term as South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, has joined Mike Huckabee’s leadership team in South Carolina, which already includes Former Governor David Beasley, United States Congressman Bob Inglis, State Chairman Mike Campbell and the family of Former Governor Carroll A. Campbell Jr., and numerous state legislators including Greenville State Senator David Thomas, Rex Rice, and Liston Barfield of Conway.

On Upswing, Huckabee Attracts Funds, Backers

Nice to see funds flying in from all over…  it”s just the start.

Wealthy Texas financier Gene Phillips had thought about getting behind Republican Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid for some time, but it was only after the former Arkansas governor surged in the polls that Phillips decided to open his wallet and his sprawling Dallas estate for a fundraiser.

“When I saw his numbers start to move, that impressed me,” Phillips said. “Then his numbers went from single digits to double digits, and I got on the phone to his campaign and offered to help.”

For most of the year, as Huckabee remained at the back of the Republican pack, his campaign struggled to raise money. Only a handful of big-dollar bundlers were aboard, and those were mostly from Arkansas. For a time, he had no finance director, relying instead on his daughter-in-law to organize fundraising.

All that changed as Huckabee climbed in the polls, overtaking Mitt Romney in Iowa and running even with Rudolph W. Giuliani nationally. Huckabee has raised $4,755,818 on the Internet since Oct. 1 — double what he raised from all sources during the first nine months of 2007. He has a large new cast of big-dollar bundlers. And his efforts in Iowa and elsewhere are getting a major boost from independent groups that are able to raise unlimited amounts, often without disclosing the identities of their backers.

With the rush of money have come challenges and potential problems. Huckabee’s aides have had little time to research the backgrounds of his new lineup of bundlers and have expressed frustration over the emergence of several outside groups that are now raising and spending money on his behalf.

Only after Huckabee pocketed $330,000 from Phillips’s Dallas fundraiser on Dec. 18, for instance, did he learn from a local reporter that Phillips had been subject to $850,000 in fines from the Securities and Exchange Commission and had once faced a federal bribery indictment in a sweeping case alleging organized crime influence on Wall Street. Phillips was acquitted in the criminal case. Huckabee said he welcomed Phillips’s support.

J. French Hill, Huckabee’s finance chairman, and the chief executive of Delta Trust & Banking Corp. in Little Rock, acknowledged the difficulty of vetting the background of every new bundler. “Our campaign staff is trying to do that the best they can,” Hill said. “Particularly as it relates to fundraisers who are assembling events in other cities, they have been briefed on rules and should be sensitive to their responsibility.”

Even with his newfound resources, Huckabee will probably remain well behind Romney and Giuliani — who between them raised $100 million between January and September — when presidential candidates submit their fundraising totals to the Federal Election Commission on Monday. All three are expected to remain far behind the best-financed Democratic candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, who are expected to add tens of millions to the more than $150 million raised between them so far.

Nonetheless, Huckabee should for the first time have enough money to contend with an onslaught of costly advertising and organizational challenges during the early primaries. Chip Saltsman, Huckabee’s campaign manager, said he remains unconcerned about any financial imbalance heading into Feb. 5, when candidates must compete in huge, expensive media markets across the country.

“It’s not how much money you raise; it’s what you do with the money you do raise,” Saltsman said. “There’s a reason we’re doing so well, and it has nothing to do with money.”

One of Huckabee’s new backers that has caused concerns is Common Sense Issues, an independent group that has been accused of financing push polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan. The group’s Web site, TrustHuckabee.com, also suggests the organization is doing crucial leg work by getting precinct captains in place for the Iowa caucuses. The group has funded phone banks to call Huckabee supporters and has tried to recruit captains for each Iowa precinct.

“We’ve asked them to stop doing what they’re doing,” Saltsman said. “We think it’s hurting us,” because the negative messages run counter to efforts to run a positive campaign.

The Ohio-based nonprofit is run by Procter & Gamble executive Nathan Estruth, a longtime Huckabee supporter, and its effort is being overseen by Patrick Davis, who worked with Saltsman at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2001. The group has engaged in several state and federal campaigns, and in the past much of its financial backing came from Ohio billionaire and longtime conservative donor Carl H. Lindner Jr.

A spokeswoman for Lindner said his money is not being used to help Huckabee, and that he is a national co-chair of the Romney campaign this year. His son, Carl Lindner III, is backing Huckabee.

Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance expert in Washington, said Common Sense Issues is so deeply engaged on Huckabee’s behalf that it is edging very close to the limits of the law. There is some indication that political activity is all the group does, Wertheimer said. If that is the case, “it would appear to be violating both tax laws and campaign finance laws. This is a group that needs to be investigated by both the IRS and the FEC,” he said.

Huckabee, a former Arkansas Baptist State Convention president, has also received organizational and financial support from a loose network of pastors, home schoolers and Americans for Fair Taxation, a nonprofit that advocates replacing all federal taxes with a national sales tax. That group, which has spent more than $2.5 million on Huckabee’s behalf, bought 400 tickets to Iowa’s Republican straw poll in August and bused in supporters to help him finish a surprising second.

At the same time, Huckabee’s rise in the polls and in fundraising has led to attacks by independent political groups. This week, the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC announced it would target Huckabee in Iowa, posting a video on its Web site attacking his position on immigration matters. And for the past two weeks, an arm of the anti-tax Club for Growth has launched television ads opposing Huckabee, criticizing his record on taxes in Arkansas.

On Wednesday, ClubforGrowth.net announced it had increased its advertising buy in Iowa to $550,000 over three weeks. The television spot “seeks to educate the public about Mike Huckabee’s many tax increases and urges taxpayers to call the governor and challenge him on his tax policy,” according to Pat Toomey, the group’s president.

Hill, Huckabee’s top fundraiser, said that while the commercials have been “frustrating,” they have also “garnered a lot of support for the governor because he is under attack. That’s given him a lot more publicity.”

Hill says the campaign is trying to adapt quickly to the dramatic change in fundraising. For the bulk of this year, Huckabee’s money was coming from an eclectic mix of people who included about three dozen pastors or priests, several “soldiers,” two missionaries and a man who identified himself as “Middleweight Champion of the World.”

His larger donations flowed from major shareholders in Home Bancshares Inc., a company that owns community banks in Arkansas. Huckabee owns between $50,000 and $100,000 in bank stock, according to financial disclosure forms; during his tenure as governor, he appointed one of the bank’s principals to be the state’s chief banking regulator. Another major group of donors came from Arkansas-based Wal-Mart and its affiliates.

Huckabee also continued to get financial help from Jennings Osborne, the Little Rock businessman known for his lavish Christmas light displays, who took heat for giving Huckabee, while he was governor, tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including furniture, flowers, gift cards and clothing — $53,000 in 1999 alone — all of which the governor reported in ethics filings.

Now, Hill said, Huckabee’s donations are coming from all over. Huckabee will report his fourth-quarter fundraising totals on Monday. Hill would not say how much the governor will have in the bank, but he did say that it would be correct to expect this quarter’s tally to be substantially more than he raised over the rest of the year combined.

Bringing in the Big Guns… Veteran GOP strategist signs on with Huckabee

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A veteran Republican strategist considered by many the architect of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide election victory is set to take the helm of Mike Huckabee’s surging presidential bid, CNN has learned.

Ed Rollins — the longtime GOP strategist who worked in the Reagan White House, ran former Sen. Jack Kemp’s 1988 White House run, and played a key role in Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential bid — will be formally named Huckabee’s national campaign chairman later Friday at an event in New Hampshire.

Rollins told CNN’s John King that over the last several months he has become “more and more impressed by the day” with Huckabee.

“I had given up the profession and felt this was probably my last campaign and I wanted to help,” Rollins said. “Mike is someone with great communications skills and a very approachable message and that is why you see his support growing not just in Iowa but across the country.”

Asked if he thought Huckabee — who currently holds leads in key early voting states in several recent polls — has the chance to win the nomination over more well-known and better funded candidates, Rollins said “the skill factor is certainly there.”

“There is a great outpouring of support by people who have seen him, and more and more by people who see him from afar and are impressed,” he said.

“The struggle now is to take it beyond Iowa and go nationally, and what you have is a growing candidacy, and I think I can help.”

Rollins also said his job will include building a broader campaign structure and recruiting more seasoned advisors with experience in running a national presidential campaign.

Rollins is currently a regular contributor to CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight.

– CNN’s John King and Dana Bash