Mike Huckabee Less Active in Florida in 2012, but Rolling Nationally

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: July 28, 2012 3:55 AM
Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee | Credit: Shutterstock - Frontpage

Though he got involved this week in a rare primary battle between two incumbent congressmen, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is playing less of a role in the 2012 election cycle than he did in 2012 in Florida -- where he moved after his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. But Huckabee shows no signs of playing less of a role on the national stage. 

Late Wednesday, he announced that he was backing U.S. Rep. John Mica who is facing U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams in the Aug. 14 Republican primary.

“John Mica is a proven leader who doesn’t just talk; he achieves sound conservative results,” Huckabee said. “Congressman Mica's 100 percent pro-life, pro-family, and pro-Second Amendment record is one I commend and salute! He’s voted against every bailout and Obama stimulus plan, is an original co-sponsor of the Fair Tax. He joins me in sheer determination to repeal Obamacare. If conservatives want a man of action and a man we can count on, I urge my fellow Floridians in Central Florida to join me in supporting John Mica.”

But Mica is only the third endorsement Huckabee and HuckPAC -- his political group -- has offered in Florida so far in the 2012 election cycle. Huckabee backed the U.S. Senate bid of state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, early in 2011. Haridopolos backed Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008 and the former governor endorsed him for re-election to the Florida Senate in 2010. But Haridopolos scrapped his U.S. Senate bid in 2011 and Huckabee has not waded back into the contest.

Last month, Huckabee announced that he was backing U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., for a second term. With a field of prominent Democrats battling in the primary on Aug. 14, Southerland can expect a serious challenge in November as he seeks re-election.

When he endorsed Southerland, Huckabee praised his conservative credentials and record in Washington and in the private sector.

“Steve's commitment to North and Northwest Florida has shaped his life, and is now his driving force, as he seeks to once again represent Florida's 2nd Congressional District," Huckabee said. “As a businessman, Steve helps provide jobs for dozens of local families. He knows the difficulties that hard-working Floridians face while trying to make ends meet in this chaotic economy.

“As congressman, Steve is acutely aware of the disastrous effects excessive taxes and government waste have on small businesses," Huckabee added. “Steve is fighting hard to bring much-needed sensibility and fiscal restraint to Washington. Steve believes that no greater commitment can be made than the commitment between a husband and a wife. He knows that it is from that union that the foundation of a family is created. He also believes that each of us must be tireless in our protection of pro-family values, including, but not limited to, the rights of the unborn child and the rights of the parents.”

Huckabee had been much more active in Florida in 2010, backing Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate bid, longtime ally Dan Webster’s successful bid to knock off Democrat incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, choosing Karen Diebel over Adams in a competitive congressional primary and supporting David Rivera’s bid to move from the Legislature to the U.S. House. Huckabee also offered a last-minute endorsement of Bill McCollum’s unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

But despite the slow start, Huckabee's team insists that their man will be active in Florida, which is once again a tossup state in the presidential election and features a competitive U.S. Senate and congressional races. 

"HuckPAC plans to be very involved in elections across the country this year, including in Florida," Chad Gallagher, the director of the group, insisted to Sunshine State News on Thursday. "Governor Huckabee certainly loves the Sunshine State and wants to help conservatives there and elsewhere get elected. HUCKPAC is always looking to invest in races that make sense, and where our efforts can make a difference."

Florida was not exactly Huckabee territory in 2008. He came in a distant fourth in the Florida primary in January of that year, behind Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Huckabee carried four rural counties in North Florida and claimed 14 percent of the vote.

But while Huckabee is playing a smaller role in Florida so far this election cycle compared to 2010, he remains very active on the national political stage.

On Thursday, conservative group Restore America’s Voice announced that Huckabee would be appearing in television ads running across the nation calling for the repeal of the federal health-care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010.

“We are greatly pleased to have Governor Huckabee with us at this critical juncture,” said Ken Hoagland, the chairman of Restore America’s Voice. “He is an immensely popular figure who cares deeply about this critical issue. The American people know that when Mike Huckabee speaks out on an issue, he is speaking from his heart, and what comes from the heart goes to the heart.”

Huckabee had worked with Restore America’s Voice in 2009 and 2010 when the health care law was before Congress. Their efforts led more than 2.3 million Americans to petition Congress opposing the law and Hoagland hopes the new effort targeting the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate will draw the same kind of support.

“With Governor Huckabee leading the charge, I believe we are going to see the Senate deluged with demands that they do the right thing and repeal this monstrosity,” Hoagland said. “If they do not, at the very least, come November, the voters will know who stood with them and who protected the bait-and-switch tactics employed by Barack Obama and Harry Reid in enacting this legislation.”

While Huckabee considered entering the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, he bypassed the chance to make a second bid at the White House. A poll released this week by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to prominent Democrats, finds that Huckabee remains popular in Iowa, home of the first caucus and a state the former Arkansas governor won in 2008. The poll finds 68 percent of Iowa Republicans view Huckabee favorably -- the highest of any of the potential GOP presidential candidates for 2016.

Asked about a hypothetical 2016 race, 17 percent of Iowa Republicans back Huckabee, tying him for first place with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania who carried the Hawkeye State in January. Right behind them in third is Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey with 16 percent. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky places fourth with 11 percent followed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 10 percent. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida stands in sixth with 8 percent while U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin garners 6 percent. Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin trail with 4 percent each.

The poll of 363 usual Iowa Republican caucus voters was taken from July 12-15 and had a margin of error of +/- 5.1 percent.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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