Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Huckabee a pauper

If like us you are obsessively following the national maneuverings for signs that Arkansas will raise another native son to the presidency of the United States, this has not been a good week.

First-quarter fund-raising is always monitored for evidence of who will be the front-runners in the raft of telltale primaries that will occur late in the coming winter. The campaign finance reports do not bode well for our man Mike Huckabee. He only raised about $500,000, most of it from Arkansas friends and a tiny fraction of the scratch raised by the big boys, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and the rapidly fading John McCain.

Romney, who is wresting away the mantle of “conservative governor” that Huckabee bids to assume, raised $23 million. Giuliani, the liberal New Yorker, took in $15 million and McCain $12.5 million. None, of course, approached the fund-raising of the leading Democratic fund-raiser, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who hauled in $26 million. Sen. Barack Obama is supposed to be close behind.

Huckabee said he was not disappointed with his haul. He still has $300,000 in the bank and he’s just getting started, he said. Brother Huckabee’s strategy is to throw everything into New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, particularly the latter two, in hopes of springing a big surprise in those first primary tests. That would catapult him into the headlines for the score or so of big primaries that followed in the next two weeks. He compares himself to Bill Clinton, who got into the race in the fall of 1991 only a few months before the primaries, but Clinton was in the front rank of Democratic candidates in fund-raising and organization in no time. President George H. W. Bush was considered unbeatable in 1991 and no Democrat was going anywhere a year ahead of the primaries.

But Huckabee owns considerable skills as a talker, and with unfamiliar audiences he is convincing about having been a wildly effective, tax-cutting, small-government conservative during his 10 ˝ years as governor. He keeps getting pestered by right-wing groups like the Club for Growth, which challenge his small-government record. He raised more taxes than any previous Arkansas governor, though for good things in our view. The governor came out with still another book this month and the ultraconservative Washington Times, the foremost daily journal of conservatism, poked fun at it, referring to some of his ideas as “silly.” It said he clearly was shooting to be vice president, not president. Well, his supporters down here would happily settle for that even if the prospect was hair-raising for others.