Huck: No party builder | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Huck: No party builder

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 8:13 AM

The Washington Times has done the most definitive article yet on Mike Huckabee's rocky relationship with Arkansas Republicans. (Sen. Dave Bisbee's vote for John McCain in the Benton County Republican straw poll, as reported in the article I mentioned earlier, is one other solid example.)

In both on-the-record and private conversations with Republicans in Arkansas, the picture that emerges is a governor who succeeded at advancing his causes and was willing to fight anyone who didn't agree.

That matters because the next Republican presidential nominee will be tasked with trying to rebuild a congressional majority and stoke a Republican Party after eight volatile years under President Bush.

Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Huckabee achieved some early successes. By the beginning of 1999, when he was sworn in for his first full term, his party had gained nearly a quarter of the state's House, added state Senate seats and held the lieutenant governorship, one of the two U.S. Senate seats and half of the four congressional seats.

But also like Mr. Bush, who battled congressional Republicans on immigration reform and prescription drug coverage, Mr. Huckabee found himself fighting members of his own party.

..."In the 10 years where the governor was the title head of the party, we actually took steps backwards," Mr. [Rep. Jake] Files said, noting that Republicans were advancing in other Southern states. "The overall morale of the party did not take any of those same stages it did in the other states. It started plateauing and took a dive."

The Times article touches on just about everything. It notes how little Huckabee's CLAPAC, an Arkansas front, was used for its ostensible purpose of supporting other Republican candidates. It also mentions the legally dubious Hope for America PAC that Huckabee set up in Virginia, also with the ostensible purpose of helping other Republican candidates. That PAC raised $1.2 million over three years, but spent none on other Republican candidates. Instead, the money went for expenses that look a great deal like the sort you'd make in exploring a presidential race, though this would have been an improper use of the money. The spending included hefty payments to a political consultant, who would have had no consulting or polling to do on Huckabee's behalf. Some suspect that money went in part to put a family member on a payroll in advance of Huckabee's presidential run in a way where it wouldn't be openly disclosed.

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