Mike Huckabee is the first candidate to announce who has also served as a Governor. He held his announcement on May 5 in his home town of Hope, Arkansas. The theme of the event was titled, “From Hope to Higher Ground.” It was not only a reference to humble beginnings in small town America but also a platform to contrast the false hope of Obama to real hope. The entire event lasted a little over an hour with his speech lasting about 30 minutes.
He began his speech with remembrances of growing up in Hope, Arkansas. He made reference to the American dream by saying that he was “raised to believe that where a person started didn’t mean that is where he had to stop.”
He portrayed himself as coming from the working class. He mentioned learning the basic skills of life, learning to read, ride a bike, swim, patriotism, God, handling firearms, to play fair. He emphasized American exceptionalism saying, “I learned that this exceptional country could only be explained by the providence of Almighty God.”
As he shared his life story, of meeting his wife, his first job, and becoming the first male in his family line to graduate from high school. He then made the announcement of his candidacy,
“It seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for President of the United States of America.”
As he spoke those words, I could detect that he had one of those welling up of emotion moments which brings a lump in the throat. It was barely noticeable. Some use the phrase, “fire in his belly” to describe if a candidate really means what he says and is really committed to the task ahead.
There was no question. Mike Huckabee has the fire in his belly.
He then moved to talk about Barack Obama referring to him as an untested, inexperienced, virtually unknown Senator. He rattled off a litany of realities – doubled debt, failed leadership, 93 million Americans without jobs, full time jobs with benefits turning into two part time jobs with no benefits. “We were promised hope, but it was just talk.”
He addressed veterans and the failed service to them.
“Veterans who kept their promise to America, who have kept us free, now wait for months for our country’s promise for basic health care for the scars from the very wars that we sent them to fight.”
Huckabee turned his attention to dysfunctional Washington. One the one side he chastised the “donor class” and on the other, the bureaucrats who live off of the programs.
He turned his focus on his experience as a Governor, noting that he came into a state with more Democrats in the legislature. Without mentioning any names, he referred to taking on a “politically entrenched machine that ran this state.”
Against those odds, Huckabee listed his accomplishments: 94 tax cuts, rebuilt road systems, improvement in student test scores, family income increase by 50%.
In a pre-emptive strike on the matter of Social Security, he painted himself as a populist defender of payments due to those who expected it. Going on the offensive, he reminded the hearers that it was Obamacare and congress who took 700 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare.
“My friend, you are forced to pay for social security and Medicare for 50 years. The government grabs the money from our paychecks and says it will be waiting for us when we turn 65. If congress wants to take away someone’s retirement, let them take their own congressional pensions, not your social security.”
Huckabee made an apparent reference to Ted Cruz signing up for Obamacare.“And imagine members of congress boasting they will fight to repeal Obamacare, and then turning around and signing up for it.”
He tied the challenges of health care to a vision of seeking cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. He recalled how they lined people up across the nation taking vaccinations to eradicate polio.
He even tied that in with John F. Kennedy’s vision of sending a man to the moon and back. “It made me believe that America could do anything it set its mind to.”
Huckabee shifted his speech to national security. He particularly emphasized a strong relationship with Israel and a strong America.
“And I commit this to you today – I will never apologize for America, ever!”
He addressed social issues of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. The activist judiciary was his main target.
Huckabee also made an apparent reference to Senators Cruz, Paul, and Rubio and to potential candidates who are currently holding office. In speaking of professional politicians, he said,
“If you live off the government payroll and want to run for an office other the one you have been elected to, then at least have the integrity and decency to resign one that you don’t want anymore and pursue the one you’d rather have.”
Limited powers of the federal government and smaller government were another two themes that he addressed. He used his role as Governor to again emphasize his credentials for the office.
“I am running for President because I know there’s a difference between making a speech and making government accountable to the people who have to pay for it…. The federal government ought to live by the rules that you have to live by. And they should function under a balanced budget, just like every year I was a governor.”
He is an advocate of the Fair Tax and “ridding ourselves of the biggest bully in America – the IRS.” He referred to the debate over the minimum wage as “race to the bottom” and said that we should be promoting individuals striving for the maximum wage.
Governor Huckabee closed out his speech with an appeal for a grassroots, populist support.
“I will let you in on a little secret. I have never had been and will never be the favorite candidate of those in the Washington to wall street corridor of power. I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people across America, that will find out that $15 and $20 a month contributions can take us from hope to higher ground.”
Governor Huckabee’s speech has been the lengthiest of speeches thus far. His was the first of the announcement speeches that pointed out differences with some of the other announced candidates.
He hit all the traditional conservative points – American exceptionalism, Obama, Veterans, dysfunction in Washington, big government, national security, friendship wtih Israel, right to life, traditional marriage, religious liberty.
In 2008 Huckabee was the identified evangelical candidate and he won Iowa and several states with a strong evangelical base. In 2016 there are several other candidates who have significant support from that same base. The announcement speeches of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson all presented a strong faith based theme.
Huckabee is an excellent speaker. He is folksy and does not come across as the angry white male.
Huckabee will emphasize his credentials as a Governor. He will use his folksy, populist, common man communication approach to differentiate himself from the other Republicans in the race.
His challenge will be to win enough of his base from 2008 and add to it substantially. He has the fire in the belly.by