Combining cultural conservatism and economic populism, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (shown) kicked off his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, Tuesday, promising to take America “from Hope to higher ground.” Along the way he proposes to fix a “dysfunctional” government in Washington, conquer jihadism, and, in what is likely to be his most controversial position, fight for the enactment of a national sales tax called “the Fair Tax.”
“As president, I'll work to pass the Fair Tax, which would no longer penalize people's work, their savings, their investments, or their good stewardship,” Huckabee declared. “And it would be the end of big government bailouts and, most importantly, we finally rid ourselves of the biggest bully in America, the IRS. The IRS would disappear and April 15 would be just another beautiful spring day,” he told the cheering crowd of about 1,600, including lifelong friends, as well as political supporters, some of whom were “caravanned” in from Iowa, Politico reported.
For many of those gathered at the community center next to the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, it was the second time they had come to help launch a Huckabee presidential campaign. Huckabee ran for president the first time in 2008, when he won the Republican vote in the Iowa caucuses, the lead-off event in the competition for the party’s presidential nomination. He won in seven other states before Arizona Senator John McCain secured the nomination.
His campaign speech Tuesday was long on biography, emphasizing his Arkansas roots, humble beginning, and personal ties with many in the state. A former Baptist pastor, he recalled his baptism and personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Savior at the age of 10. He also cited his 10-year record (July 1996-January 2007) as governor.
“I governed in a state that was the most lopsided and partisan in the country — no Republican governor had more Democrats and fewer Republicans,” he said. “I challenged the deeply entrenched political machine that ran this state. It was tough sledding, but I learned how to govern and how to lead, and even in that environment we passed 94 tax cuts, rebuilt our road system, saw dramatic improvements in student test scores, and fought the corruption of the good ol’ boy system so working class people would be given a fair shake.”
Critics of the former governor contend he is not telling “the whole story” about his record in office. The anti-tax group Club for Growth, which opposed Huckabee the last time he ran for president, has already purchased $100,000 worth of ads in Iowa and the early primary state of South Carolina, charging that Huckabee as governor “raised taxes. He raised them often and he raised them a lot.” Despite the candidate’s boast of 94 tax cuts, Factcheck.Org said during the 2008 campaign that Arkansas had 21 tax increases on Huckabee’s watch, worth $505.1 million.