Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee – a Baptist preacher and former governor of Arkansas who took York County easily in the 2008 primary – brought his combination of conservatism and folksy charm to Rock Hill Saturday, telling people he is the only GOP candidate running who has ever beaten the machinery of the presumed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Huckabee, 59, told about 100 people at a York County Republican Party barbecue dinner at Rock Hill’s Palmetto Room, “If the rest of the country had been as smart as you, the country would not be in the mess we are in.”
John McCain won the South Carolina primary and got the party nomination before losing to Barack Obama in the general election.
Huckabee’s humor, alongside tough conservative stances, drew praise and even the occassional “amen!” from attendees such as the Rev. Berry and Carol Chatas of Rock Hill. Berry Chatas said Huckabee is a “great candidate” who has the toughness to win not just the primary but the general election.
Huckabee spoke pointedly about Obama, saying the president is so hapless he can’t sell a used Subaru or a couch on Craigslist. Looking forward, Huckabee said Hillary Clinton, far ahead in all polls for Democrats despite an e-mail mess from her time as Secretary of State, continues to dodge the public by staying in “hibernation” and “hiding.”
“To be president you have to be willing to face tough questions,” Huckabee said.
Huckabee pounded on familiar themes, saying he would abolish the IRS and institute a fair tax system to get the government out of people’s wallets, purses and business. He called for self-sufficiency in food, fuel and military weaponry production for America to keep its freedom, adding he is tired of American presidents “holding hands with the Saudis” and “kowtowing to the Russians and Iranians.”
Huckabee said the country needs a stronger military, likening having the strongest armed forces in the world to the 1970s movie “Billy Jack,” where the hero tells the bad guys he is going to put a boot to the side of the bully’s head, and there’s “not a darn thing you can do about it.”
He said ISIS, and some countries, are “international bullies” that a strong American military would scare off before any conflict began.
Huckabee answered questions about Common Core – a familiar theme to conservatives who blast the education program as too intrusive. Huckabee said Common Core, which he supported when it began as a states program for higher standards and accountability, has been turned into a “Frankenmonster” by the federal government nosing its way into classrooms where that nose does not belong.
An average of polls used by national political groups shows Huckabee is tied for fifth in South Carolina with Rand Paul. The frontrunner is former Florida governor Jeb Bush. A South Carolina version of the aggregate polls shows Huckabee in fourth place statewide.
In the past month Republican candidates Rand Paul and Rick Santorum have made area visits. Before that, Ted Cruz came to York County.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065