HOPE, Arkansas — The political machines of two former Arkansas governors are vying to cross paths in a 2016 general election.
Former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee launched his 2016 bid for the Republican nomination here on Tuesday, almost a decade after he ended his tenure as governor—a position in which he served from 1996 until 2007, when he launched a bid for the White House in the 2008 election. That year, Huckabee won Iowa in the Republican nominating battle but fizzled out afterward. He’s remained a national political force since as an anchor of a show bearing his name on Fox News.
“It’s a long way from a little brick rent house on Second Street in Hope, Arkansas, to the White House,” Huckabee opened his announcement speech by saying.
But here in this small town called Hope, I was raised to believe that where a person started didn’t mean that’s where he had to stop. I always believed a kid could go from Hope to Higher Ground.
Like a lot of Americans, I grew up in a small town far removed from the power, the money, the influence that runs the country. But power and money and political influence have left a lot of Americans lagging behind. They work hard, lift heavy things and sweat through their clothes grinding out a living, but they can’t seem to get ahead or in some cases even stay even.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—whose husband former President Bill Clinton is also from this small town—is in Las Vegas on Tuesday pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens as an attempt to distract from the release of Peter Schweizer’s bombshell book, Clinton Cash.
“Similar to Clinton’s trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, the trip to Nevada will focus on interacting with Nevadans – asking questions, answering questions and sharing ideas – instead of giving big speeches,” a Clinton official told Politico Playbook editor Mike Allen on Tuesday morning.
She will talk about the next of the ‘four fights’ that define her campaign – this time focusing on “strengthening families and communities.” To do that, she’ll focus on immigration. Clinton will join a roundtable at Rancho High School in Las Vegas — which has a student body that is approximately 70% Hispanic — with Dream-Act Eligible Young Nevadans who are personally affected by our broken immigration system.
Clinton will talk about her commitment to fixing our broken immigration system by passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship, treats everyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rule of law, protects our border and national security, and brings millions of hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy … She will say that the standard for a true solution is nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship. She will say that we cannot settle for proposals that provide hard-working people with merely a “second-class” status.
In more ways than one, Huckabee positioned himself as the Republican antidote to the Clintons in his announcement speech here.
Interestingly, as Clinton is pushing for amnesty and immigration increases that hurt American workers—and for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal—Huckabee came out swinging as a strong proponent of American workers on both issues.
He also laid out how he’d fight diligently against radical Islam worldwide, something Clinton clearly failed to do as Secretary of State. And he laid out how, unlike the Clintons—Bill and Hillary—who have become part of the political class in Washington and are one with the elites on Wall Street, as demonstrated by Clinton Cash, Huckabee is as blue collar as he always was and hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
The phrase “from Hope to Higher Ground” seems to be Huckabee’s rollout campaign slogan. He grew up here in this small town in Arkansas, and spoke of his story after Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his wife Janet Huckabee introduced him. Three screens on the stage behind the speakers had the words from bottom left to top right: “Hope” and “To” and “Higher Ground” on them.
Speaking to a packed house with an estimated 2,500-person crowd at Hempstead Hall at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope campus, Huckabee struck a pro-grassroots tone—hammering the political class in Washington that President Barack Obama and so many of his opponents are a part of.
“Eight years ago, a young, untested, inexperienced and virtually unknown freshman Senator made great speeches about Hope and Change,” Huckabee said.
But eight years later, our debt has more than doubled, America’s leadership in the world has evaporated, and the country is more polarized than ever in my lifetime. Ninety-three million Americans don’t have jobs, and many who do have seen the full time job with benefits they once had become two part-time jobs with no benefits. We were promised hope, but it was just talk—now we need the kid of change that really could get America from Hope to Higher Ground.
Huckabee has, especially as of late, positioned himself as a conservative populist—joining Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), among other declared or likely 2016 GOP presidential candidates in rejecting Wall Street’s control over the Republican Party.
It’s a decidedly different tack than both Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who have embraced the donor class’ fight against American workers with their pro-amnesty and pro-massive immigration increase positions.
While Rubio has attempted to walk back his work on the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, saying now that he doesn’t support comprehensive immigration reform but just step-by-step reform, he and his aides have confirmed that he still supports all the elements that comprised the policies of the Gang of Eight amnesty bill—meaning he’d still grant amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens in America and would still, at the donor class’ urging, bring in hordes of more high and low skilled laborers to compete with Americans driving unemployment up and wages down.
Bush has been extraordinarily forthright about how he wants to open the borders up, and bring in millions of new people to compete with American workers. Bush has even gone so far as to say he wants to repopulate Detroit with foreigners.
Huckabee specifically called out the Washington establishment on trade and immigration—coming out guns-a-blazing against trade deals and immigration bills that massively increase cheap foreign labor, hurting American workers. Huckabee’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric matched that of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and he becomes now the third—after Santorum, who won Iowa in 2012, and Walker—potential or declared GOP candidate for the White House to explicitly lay out their stated plans to protect Americans from special interests’ push for a massive increase in cheap foreign labor.
“Washington is more dysfunctional than ever and has become so beholden to the donor class who fills the campaign coffers that it ignores the fact that 1 in American families are paying more than half their income for housing,” Huckabee said.
Home ownership is at the lowest level in decades and young people with heavy student debt aren’t likely to afford their first home for a while. Our federal policies for affordable housing aren’t designed to protect families, but to protect bureaucrats. A record number of people are enrolled in government operated help programs like food stamps, not because they want to be in poverty, but because they are part of the bottom earning 90 percent of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for 40 years. The war on poverty hasn’t ended poverty—it’s prolonged it.
I don’t judge the success of government by how many people are on assistance, but by how many people have good jobs and don’t need government assistance. And we don’t create good jobs for Americans by entering into unbalanced trade deals that forego Congressional scrutiny and looking the other way as the law is ignored so we can import low wage labor, undercut American workers and drive wages lower than the Dead Sea.
The current GOP frontrunner, even though he hasn’t yet announced his campaign, is Walker. Walker leads in most polls nationally, and in early states, sometimes topping his competition by double digits. Part of the way he got there is because he has, like Huckabee now has, come out as a full-blown conservative economic populist—the issues of immigration and trade best highlight who’s with American workers, and who’s standing up for special interests—and Walker has earned enormous praise for doing so, as the Hudson Institute’s John Fonte recently detailed for National Review.
Fonte wrote about how Walker has joined the movement that the “indefatigable” Sen. Sessions is the clear “political leader” of—a movement that also boasts Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and many more in steadily growing numbers in Congress. It’s this movement that led the way in helping now Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) do the impossible, beating then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary—a sitting House majority leader never before lost a primary since the position was created in the late 1800s—and has the support of some of the biggest and most influential conservatives due in large part to the fact that polling shows widespread bipartisan support for these positions and most independent economists agree that those who take them are correct.
In his announcement speech, Huckabee showed he knows exactly how to ride that wave.
“I never have been and won’t be the favorite candidate of those in the ‘Washington to Wall Street’ corridor of power,” Huckabee said.
I will be funded and fueled no by the billionaires, but by working people across America who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to Higher Ground. If you want to give a million dollars, please do it, but most can’t. But I will ask you to give something—in the name of your children and grandchildren.
I’ve walked away from my own income to do this, so I’m not asking you for a sacrifice I’m not willing to make. I don’t have a global foundation or a taxpayer funded paycheck to love off of. I don’t come from a family dynasty, but a working family. I grew up blue collar and not blue blood. I ask you to join with me today not just so I can be president, but so we can preserve this great Republic and that someday your children and and grandchildren can still go from Hope to Higher Ground.
On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton remains the favorite. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has stepped up to take her on, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Sen. James Webb (D-VA) and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee may do so as well. But at this point, the only person who seems able to beat Clinton in a Democratic presidential primary is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—and she’s currently saying she won’t run against Clinton.
That creates an extraordinarily interesting dynamic—a rematch—between Huckabee and the Clintons. Bill Clinton, the former president and Hillary’s husband, grew up here in Hope. And Huckabee and the Clintons have battled each other for decades on the local, state and national political stage—and Huckabee has proven himself to be one of the few Republicans who’s proven capable of beating them, as he did here in Arkansas when he was first elected to the Lieutenant Governor’s office then took over as governor when Clinton’s successor was forced out of office on felony charges.
Huckabee’s campaign is quick to highlight the contrast and provided reporters with a fact sheet ahead of his announcement here that lays out how for years he’s beaten the Clintons, proving to be an unusually successful thorn in their side. The document walks through how Huckabee consistently won elections in then-deep-blue Arkansas, almost single-handedly leading a Republican take-back of the southern state that produced the Clinton machine that’s still so prevalent here that the street name on which Hemsptead Hall sits is “Bill Clinton Road” and the airport in Little Rock a couple hours away is named “Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport.”
On foreign policy, Huckabee bashed Obama’s and Clinton’s failures over and over again–laying out how if he were president he’d ensure that radical Islam doesn’t continue thriving.
“We face real threats from radical jihadism in the form of savage groups like ISIS and state terrorists like Iran, but we put more pressure on our ally Israel to cease building bedrooms for their families in Judea and Samaria than we do on Iran for building a bomb,” Huckabee said.
Dealing with radicals who chant ‘death to America’ band who fund bombs and rockets to murder civilians in Israel is nonsense. But when I hear the current president say he wants Christians to get off their high horse so we can make nice with radical jihadists, I wonder if he could watch a western from the fifties and be able to figure out who the good guys and bad guys are.
As President, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism: We will conquer it. We will deal with jihadis just as we would deal with deadly snakes. And let there be no doubt–Israel will know, as will the world–that we are their trusted friend and the Ayatollahs of Iran will know that hell will freeze over before they ever get a nuclear weapon. And I will never, ever apologize for America.
Huckabee also promised to implement a Fair Tax if elected president, and eliminate the IRS. He said a Fair Tax would “no longer penalize people’s work, their savings, their investments or their good stewardship” and would be mean people can “rid ourselves of the biggest bully in America, the IRS.”
“The IRS would disappear and April 15 would be just another beautiful spring day,” Huckabee said.