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Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Former Governor, Arkansas

Republican

The Popular Vote

0 60 100 114
60%
Average based on 114 scores
  • Free Market
    49%
  • National Security
    52%
  • American Exceptionalism
    55%
  • Consistency
    54%
  • Ethics
    58%
  • Principles
    57%
  • Accomplishments
    47%
  • Political Skills
    48%
  • Communication
    54%
  • Viability
    41%

Mike Huckabee

Out of the running Last modified: February 2, 2016

LPA's Final Grade: D/63(Why this Grade?)

Free Market
4
National Security
9
American Exceptionalism
8
Consistency
5
Ethics
6
Principles
8
Accomplishments
5
Political Skills
6
Communication
9
Viability
3

Leadership MatrixCandidate grading is a dynamic process and is subject to change according to ongoing evaluation using the criteria of the Leadership Matrix.

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, announced his campaign for the White House in May 2016. In 2008 Huckabee ran a strong campaign for the Republican nomination for president, winning several state caucuses and primaries and finishing as the runner-up to John McCain.

While he has consistently and strongly supported socially conservative policies, many of his views on economic and other domestic policy issues are likely to raise serious concerns with Republican voters who hold pro-free market views. He has clashed frequently with free-market oriented conservatives, calling the pro-tax cut group Club for Growth the “Club for Greed.” His record as a governor included a mixture of tax hikes and tax cuts, but the libertarian Cato Institute gave his tenure as governor a grade of D.

His foreign policy and national security views generally fit within the conservative mainstream. The main appeal of a Huckabee candidacy in 2016 is likely to be among social conservatives. Huckabee has warned that he and like-minded Republicans may leave the party if it abandons or mutes its positions on social issues, a message he delivered after deeming the GOP’s response to a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage to be insufficiently conservative.

Despite winning the 2008 Iowa caucuses and running a strong second overall to eventual nominee John McCain, Huckabee does not seem to have held on to a strong base of support. Most polling nationally and in the early states show him in low single digits; his fundraising has been poor at best; and while he qualified for the first few “prime time” debates his low levels of support relegated him to the early “undercard” debates starting in November.

Although other candidates appear to have poached much of Huckabee’s past support from social conservatives, he’s enormously telegenic and a gifted speaker, and he defied many experts’ predictions in winning the Iowa caucuses despite modest fundraising in 2008. It would take a series of unlikely stumbles by those candidates in front of him as well as better-than-expected finishes in some of the early contests for him to rise to the level of serious contender, but of all the third-tier candidates Huckabee may be the one with the best chance of improving his situation.

Out of the running Last modified: February 2, 2016

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In the area of taxes, Huckabee had a mixed record in Arkansas, supporting significant tax cuts during his early years in office, including cuts in capital gains taxes and reforms to the income tax, while his later years included several tax increase proposals such as a hike in the state sales tax and an income-tax surcharge.

More recently Huckabee has endorsed the Fair Tax, which would replace the current income tax system with a national sales tax of approximately 23 percent. There is a serious division among the conservative community over whether a national sales tax is good policy, but it seems fair to consider Huckabee’s support for it to be consistent with many conservative principles. Huckabee signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes in 2007, prior to running for president.

He has clashed frequently with free-market oriented conservatives, calling the pro-tax cut group Club for Growth the “Club for Greed.” His record as a governor included a mixture of tax hikes and tax cuts, but the libertarian Cato Institute gave his tenure as governor a grade of D.

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In the regulatory arena, Huckabee has supported raising federal fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon; embraced (and subsequently backed off of) a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; and signed a minimum wage increase. He endorsed a government ban on smoking in public places and in workplaces.

In 2007 Huckabee endorsed net neutrality, a policy that would bring 1930s-era regulations intended for phone service to the Internet, and which critics say will give government greater control of online content and interfere with Internet providers’ ability to manage and price their services. Huckabee was responding to a heavily slanted question, however, and he may have been unfamiliar with the issue.

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He signed a minimum wage increase.

In 2011 Huckabee said collective bargaining for public unions should be eliminated or reformed.

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He has also supported subsidies for renewable energy, including ethanol. He signed onto a resolution from the Southern Governors Association supporting “adequate funding and incentives for further development of clean and efficient” energy technologies.

Huckabee has supported raising federal fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon; embraced (and subsequently backed off of) a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Huckabee has recently suggested humans have little impact on climate change, and he supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. He supports more drilling for oil and natural gas on federal lands and lifting the ban on exporting crude oil as well as encouraging the export of natural gas. He also has expressed support for renewable energy, including subsidies for ethanol and biodiesel.

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On spending Huckabee’s record is not at all conservative. According to the Cato Institute, state spending soared by 65 percent during his tenure in office. He has called for increased spending on infrastructure at the federal level, and he criticized Bush’s veto of an expansion to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Although he vowed as a candidate in 2008 that he would cut federal spending and support a balanced budget, there is relatively little in his record as governor to suggest a serious commitment in these positions.

Huckabee supported the budget sequester in 2013 and criticized Democrats for “fear mongering” over the cuts, although he expressed concern it might hit defense spending too hard. He has spoken frequently about the debt problem, going so far as to compare inaction on the debt to inaction regarding the Holocaust.

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On health care reform, Huckabee aligns well with free-market principles. He was a staunch opponent of Obamacare, and in his 2008 campaign argued for free-market solutions, including expanded Health Savings Accounts and equalized tax treatment of insurance bought in the individual market. He spoke out against “universal health care” and supported the use of tax credits targeted at the poor in order to expand coverage. He supports giving states block grants for Medicaid.

Huckabee supported the Medicare Part D program, which provides prescription drug benefits to seniors but also creates a huge unfunded liability.

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Huckabee has reversed himself on entitlements and now opposes most reforms to Social Security and Medicare, harshly criticizing proposals to raise the eligibility age or impose a means test for wealthy recipients. He has also said he would oppose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s premium support plans for Medicare that would give seniors the money to obtain private coverage in the open market, arguing that doing so, like changing Social Security, would be disastrous politically and further diminish the public’s trust in government. He has said he would support reforms that would only affect workers just entering the labor force and that he would support allowing the newly retired to take their Social Security benefits as a single lump sum rather than over the course of their retirement. While he has not said specifically what he would do to put the programs on solid financial footing, he has said “so many cheats are exploiting the Social Security program, and more than 20 percent of Medicare spending is waste, fraud and abuse. … Washington needs to tackle these problems first.”

In an August 2015 op-ed, he suggested that his tax reform proposal would “create a stable funding stream for Social Security and Medicare” but provided no specifics.

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Huckabee has always claimed to support free trade, although he has typically qualified his comments to suggest that free trade agreements must involve “fair trade,” and he frequently voiced concerns that other nations weren’t following rules and abiding by U.S. standards. In his book Do the Right Thing he argues, “But the truth is that globalization is just one of the many reasons why individuals lose their jobs and why companies close their doors. Globalization also creates jobs, and often the benefits of globalization for outweigh the costs.”  He supported both NAFTA and CAFTA. But more recently his comments on trade have been distinctly negative, emphasizing the issues of possible reduced wages and job losses for U.S. workers. He has stated his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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On immigration, Huckabee’s approach seems grounded in his Christian faith but also aligns well with free-market ideals, although his position is sure to raise the hackles of many conservatives. He has modified his position over time, but essentially favors a secure border while allowing those presently in the U.S. to remain, or at least leave the country for a short period and then return as part of an expanded legal immigration system.

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Huckabee has routinely voiced support for subsidies for favored industries, particularly in agriculture. He argued in his book Do the Right Thing that agriculture subsidies should continue because European and Asian farmers receive subsidies, and because subsidies keep retail prices for food low in the U.S. He has argued for a “fully funded” crop insurance program and urged special incentives for new farmers including tax-deferred savings accounts and deferred loans.

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Huckabee has routinely voiced support for subsidies for favored industries, particularly in agriculture. He argued in his book Do the Right Thing that agriculture subsidies should continue because European and Asian farmers receive subsidies, and because subsidies keep retail prices for food low in the U.S. He has argued for a “fully funded” crop insurance program and urged special incentives for new farmers including tax-deferred savings accounts and deferred loans.

He has also supported subsidies for renewable energy, including ethanol. He signed onto a resolution from the Southern Governors Association supporting “adequate funding and incentives for further development of clean and efficient” energy technologies.

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Huckabee was critical of the 2008 bank bailouts and also of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau included in the Dodd-Frank law meant to regulate Wall Street. He has criticized “big Wall Street banks whose reckless and feckless mismanagement” he believes caused the financial and economic crisis of 2008, while pointing out that Dodd-Frank has hit small community banks hard. In 2008 Huckabee said Sarbanes-Oxley, which imposes stringent standards and heavy burdens on the accounting practices of U.S. companies, should be repealed.

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He has called for a larger, better-funded military, specifically calling for a return to the Reagan-era level of about 6 percent of GDP devoted to defense spending. This would include a larger Army and Marine Corps. He also states that the military should not be used for non-military missions such as building hospitals and schools, but that other government and private agencies should be used to fill that role.

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Huckabee has called for the “eradication” of ISIS and has said he would take military action against Iran if necessary to prevent them from building nuclear weapons. He supports arming the Kurds in their fight against ISIS and backs increased American airstrikes against Islamic State as well. He opposes bringing in large numbers of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, noting that many of them are not fleeing persecution but instead seeking economic opportunity. He also asked whether those coming to the U.S. might be “some of the most violent and vicious people on Earth,” suggesting that Saudi Arabia should take them instead.

On domestic surveillance, Huckabee has expressed his opposition to the government’s collection of bulk data on telephone calls (so-called metadata) that the National Security Agency uses to try to find and foil terror plots. He notes that to date, there are no examples of the program’s thwarting any attacks, and he says it violates constitutional rights.

Huckabee has harshly opposed President Barack Obama administration’s agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, going so far as to say it was marching Israelis “to the door of the oven,” a pointed reference to the Holocaust.

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Huckabee’s public statements in the 2008 campaign, and those since then, suggest an interventionist approach that favors American military and diplomatic power as a decisive player on the world stage.

Huckabee criticized the Bush administration’s “bunker mentality” and sometimes poor relationship with many countries across the world, but his own policies would likely differ little. His statements indicate he would seek to more clearly explain to the public the threat from Islamic radicalism, and he supported Bush’s surge of troops in Iraq.

Huckabee has stood firmly for American national sovereignty, opposing the Law of the Sea Treaty and explaining that U.N. or other international agreements should have no role in U.S. domestic policy.

Huckabee supported lifting the embargo on Cuba as governor of Arkansas, writing Bush to urge him to end the embargo. He later reversed his position when he ran for president, explaining he was representing the interests of rice farmers in his state when he had earlier supported ending the embargo. He referred to Obama’s decision to renew relations with Cuba and loosen the embargo as a “slap in the face of Cuban-Americans.”

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Huckabee has been highly critical of the role of the judiciary, stating he “will never bow down to the false gods of judicial supremacy. In a May 2015 interview Huckabee said, “[T]he notion that the Supreme Court comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government.” His views suggesting the executive and legislative branches could ignore a Supreme Court decision would represent a fairly radical departure from settled understanding, but is one that would likely please many conservatives concerned about judicial activism.

He has suggested term limits for Supreme Court judges and proposed impeaching justices in the wake of the Obergefell (same-sex marriage) decision.

Huckabee called the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell (Obamacare tax credits)“an out-of-control act of judicial tyranny,” adding that the Constitution doesn’t give “Supreme Court justices the power to circumvent Congress and rewrite bad laws.” He accused the court of “[legislating] from the bench, [ignoring] the Constitution, and [passing] a multi-trillion dollar ‘fix’ to ObamaCare simply because Congress misread what the states would actually do.”

He was similarly critical of the court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, accusing the court of doing “something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage.” He pledged that he “will not acquiesce to an imperial court” and insisted we “must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Huckabee opposes the Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, saying it created a “holocaust of liberalized abortion.” He believes it would “most certainly” be a good day if it is overturned.

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Huckabee is a longtime supporter of gun rights. Both he and his wife are concealed carry permit holders. As governor he signed legislation protecting gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits, and he opposes a ban on assault weapons. He has spoken of the value of the Second Amendment not only to protect citizens against criminals but also as a bulwark against government “should it go completely awry and turn into tyranny.”

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Huckabee has been a staunch advocate of pro-life views. He favors banning all abortions except for those needed to save the life of the mother, and he has supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He favors overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and adding a pro-life amendment to the Constitution. He has also said he believes legal abortion is a violation of the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

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He has also made opposition to same-sex marriage a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, criticizing the June 2015 Supreme Court decision finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and calling for a constitutional amendment overturning the ruling.

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On the First Amendment issue of campaign finance, Huckabee’s position has evolved. In 2002 he filled out a campaign survey indicating he favored limits on campaign contributions, but by the 2008 campaign he opposed McCain-Feingold and said that the best option might be to abolish limits and just have disclosure. Since then he has reiterated his view that limits should be abolished and all contributions should be disclosed. His views here largely mirror the conservative mainstream.

On religious liberty, Huckabee is an outspoken critic of efforts to limit the ability of faith communities to participate in politics, or for the government to intrude on religious matters. He has said he supports a Kentucky county clerk who has defied a court order by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Huckabee has referred to religious liberty as the “foundation of all our liberties” and made the issue a major theme of his campaign. He has pledged that as president he would sign an executive order protecting businesses, churches and other entities from government penalties for exercising their belief in traditional marriage, and supported Hobby Lobby in its fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

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Answering a questionnaire from the American Conservative Union during the 2008 campaign, Huckabee wrote, “…we want very strong, energetic, innovative states, with government both as limited as possible and as close to the people as possible. The states should not usurp functions that can be handled locally, and the federal government should not usurp functions that can be handled by the states. An important part of being a conservative President for me would be strengthening federalism… we must respect the separation of powers and no branch should usurp the authority of another…”

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Huckabee’s staunch opposition to government interference in religious matters led him to oppose school vouchers, one of his few deviations from what most social conservatives support. He has expressed support for school choice in public schools, including charters, and is a sufficiently strong advocate of homeschooling that the Home School Legal Defense Association PAC endorsed his 2008 campaign. But Christian leaders in Arkansas persuaded Huckabee that vouchers would invite government intrusion into private Christian schools, causing him to oppose vouchers.

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Huckabee does not appear to have a serious commitment to free-market ideas, although his general support for many conservative policies would in many cases likely put him on the same side as limited-government advocates if he were in the White House.

In the area of taxes, Huckabee had a mixed record in Arkansas, supporting significant tax cuts during his early years in office, including cuts in capital gains taxes and reforms to the income tax, while his later years included several tax increase proposals such as a hike in the state sales tax and an income-tax surcharge.

More recently Huckabee has endorsed the Fair Tax, which would replace the current income tax system with a national sales tax of approximately 23 percent. There is a serious division among the conservative community over whether a national sales tax is good policy, but it seems fair to consider Huckabee’s support for it to be consistent with many conservative principles. Huckabee signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes in 2007, prior to running for president.

On spending Huckabee’s record is not at all conservative. According to the Cato Institute, state spending soared by 65 percent during his tenure in office. He has called for increased spending on infrastructure at the federal level, and he criticized Bush’s veto of an expansion to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Although he vowed as a candidate in 2008 that he would cut federal spending and support a balanced budget, there is relatively little in his record as governor to suggest a serious commitment in these positions.

Huckabee supported the budget sequester in 2013 and criticized Democrats for “fear mongering” over the cuts, although he expressed concern it might hit defense spending too hard. He has spoken frequently about the debt problem, going so far as to compare inaction on the debt to inaction regarding the Holocaust.

Huckabee has routinely voiced support for subsidies for favored industries, particularly in agriculture. He argued in his book Do the Right Thing that agriculture subsidies should continue because European and Asian farmers receive subsidies, and because subsidies keep retail prices for food low in the U.S. He has argued for a “fully funded” crop insurance program and urged special incentives for new farmers including tax-deferred savings accounts and deferred loans.

He has also supported subsidies for renewable energy, including ethanol. He signed onto a resolution from the Southern Governors Association supporting “adequate funding and incentives for further development of clean and efficient” energy technologies.

In the regulatory arena, Huckabee has supported raising federal fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon; embraced (and subsequently backed off of) a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; and signed a minimum wage increase. He endorsed a government ban on smoking in public places and in workplaces.

In 2007 Huckabee endorsed net neutrality, a policy that would bring 1930s-era regulations intended for phone service to the Internet, and which critics say will give government greater control of online content and interfere with Internet providers’ ability to manage and price their services. Huckabee was responding to a heavily slanted question, however, and he may have been unfamiliar with the issue.

Huckabee has recently suggested humans have little impact on climate change, and he supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. He supports more drilling for oil and natural gas on federal lands and lifting the ban on exporting crude oil as well as encouraging the export of natural gas. He also has expressed support for renewable energy, including subsidies for ethanol and biodiesel.

On health care reform, Huckabee aligns well with free-market principles. He was a staunch opponent of Obamacare, and in his 2008 campaign argued for free-market solutions, including expanded Health Savings Accounts and equalized tax treatment of insurance bought in the individual market. He spoke out against “universal health care” and supported the use of tax credits targeted at the poor in order to expand coverage. He supports giving states block grants for Medicaid.

Huckabee supported the Medicare Part D program, which provides prescription drug benefits to seniors but also creates a huge unfunded liability.

Huckabee has always claimed to support free trade, although he has typically qualified his comments to suggest that free trade agreements must involve “fair trade,” and he frequently voiced concerns that other nations weren’t following rules and abiding by U.S. standards. In his book Do the Right Thing he argues, “But the truth is that globalization is just one of the many reasons why individuals lose their jobs and why companies close their doors. Globalization also creates jobs, and often the benefits of globalization for outweigh the costs.”  He supported both NAFTA and CAFTA. But more recently his comments on trade have been distinctly negative, emphasizing the issues of possible reduced wages and job losses for U.S. workers. He has stated his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Huckabee has reversed himself on entitlements and now opposes most reforms to Social Security and Medicare, harshly criticizing proposals to raise the eligibility age or impose a means test for wealthy recipients. He has also said he would oppose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s premium support plans for Medicare that would give seniors the money to obtain private coverage in the open market, arguing that doing so, like changing Social Security, would be disastrous politically and further diminish the public’s trust in government. He has said he would support reforms that would only affect workers just entering the labor force and that he would support allowing the newly retired to take their Social Security benefits as a single lump sum rather than over the course of their retirement. While he has not said specifically what he would do to put the programs on solid financial footing, he has said “so many cheats are exploiting the Social Security program, and more than 20 percent of Medicare spending is waste, fraud and abuse. … Washington needs to tackle these problems first.”

In an August 2015 op-ed, he suggested that his tax reform proposal would “create a stable funding stream for Social Security and Medicare” but provided no specifics.

On immigration, Huckabee’s approach seems grounded in his Christian faith but also aligns well with free-market ideals, although his position is sure to raise the hackles of many conservatives. He has modified his position over time, but essentially favors a secure border while allowing those presently in the U.S. to remain, or at least leave the country for a short period and then return as part of an expanded legal immigration system.

Huckabee was critical of the 2008 bank bailouts and also of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau included in the Dodd-Frank law meant to regulate Wall Street. He has criticized “big Wall Street banks whose reckless and feckless mismanagement” he believes caused the financial and economic crisis of 2008, while pointing out that Dodd-Frank has hit small community banks hard. In 2008 Huckabee said Sarbanes-Oxley, which imposes stringent standards and heavy burdens on the accounting practices of U.S. companies, should be repealed.

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Huckabee’s public statements in the 2008 campaign, and those since then, suggest an interventionist approach that favors American military and diplomatic power as a decisive player on the world stage.

Huckabee criticized the Bush administration’s “bunker mentality” and sometimes poor relationship with many countries across the world, but his own policies would likely differ little. His statements indicate he would seek to more clearly explain to the public the threat from Islamic radicalism, and he supported Bush’s surge of troops in Iraq.

Huckabee has called for the “eradication” of ISIS and has said he would take military action against Iran if necessary to prevent them from building nuclear weapons. He supports arming the Kurds in their fight against ISIS and backs increased American airstrikes against Islamic State as well. He opposes bringing in large numbers of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, noting that many of them are not fleeing persecution but instead seeking economic opportunity. He also asked whether those coming to the U.S. might be “some of the most violent and vicious people on Earth,” suggesting that Saudi Arabia should take them instead.

On domestic surveillance, Huckabee has expressed his opposition to the government’s collection of bulk data on telephone calls (so-called metadata) that the National Security Agency uses to try to find and foil terror plots. He notes that to date, there are no examples of the program’s thwarting any attacks, and he says it violates constitutional rights.

Huckabee has harshly opposed President Barack Obama administration’s agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, going so far as to say it was marching Israelis “to the door of the oven,” a pointed reference to the Holocaust.

Huckabee supported lifting the embargo on Cuba as governor of Arkansas, writing Bush to urge him to end the embargo. He later reversed his position when he ran for president, explaining he was representing the interests of rice farmers in his state when he had earlier supported ending the embargo. He referred to Obama’s decision to renew relations with Cuba and loosen the embargo as a “slap in the face of Cuban-Americans.”

He has called for a larger, better-funded military, specifically calling for a return to the Reagan-era level of about 6 percent of GDP devoted to defense spending. This would include a larger Army and Marine Corps. He also states that the military should not be used for non-military missions such as building hospitals and schools, but that other government and private agencies should be used to fill that role.

Huckabee has stood firmly for American national sovereignty, opposing the Law of the Sea Treaty and explaining that U.N. or other international agreements should have no role in U.S. domestic policy.

close button

Huckabee is a strong proponent of the idea of American exceptionalism. He once said, “To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation,” and in 2011 he launched a company focused on teaching children American history and promoting the importance of American exceptionalism.

Huckabee has been highly critical of the role of the judiciary, stating he “will never bow down to the false gods of judicial supremacy. In a May 2015 interview Huckabee said, “[T]he notion that the Supreme Court comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government.” His views suggesting the executive and legislative branches could ignore a Supreme Court decision would represent a fairly radical departure from settled understanding, but is one that would likely please many conservatives concerned about judicial activism.

He has suggested term limits for Supreme Court judges and proposed impeaching justices in the wake of the Obergefell (same-sex marriage) decision.

Huckabee called the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell (Obamacare tax credits)“an out-of-control act of judicial tyranny,” adding that the Constitution doesn’t give “Supreme Court justices the power to circumvent Congress and rewrite bad laws.” He accused the court of “[legislating] from the bench, [ignoring] the Constitution, and [passing] a multi-trillion dollar ‘fix’ to ObamaCare simply because Congress misread what the states would actually do.”

He was similarly critical of the court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, accusing the court of doing “something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage.” He pledged that he “will not acquiesce to an imperial court” and insisted we “must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Huckabee opposes the Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, saying it created a “holocaust of liberalized abortion.” He believes it would “most certainly” be a good day if it is overturned.

On the First Amendment issue of campaign finance, Huckabee’s position has evolved. In 2002 he filled out a campaign survey indicating he favored limits on campaign contributions, but by the 2008 campaign he opposed McCain-Feingold and said that the best option might be to abolish limits and just have disclosure. Since then he has reiterated his view that limits should be abolished and all contributions should be disclosed. His views here largely mirror the conservative mainstream.

On religious liberty, Huckabee is an outspoken critic of efforts to limit the ability of faith communities to participate in politics, or for the government to intrude on religious matters. He has said he supports a Kentucky county clerk who has defied a court order by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

It is Huckabee’s staunch opposition to government interference in religious matters that led him to oppose school vouchers, one of his few deviations from what most social conservatives support. He has expressed support for school choice in public schools, including charters, and is a sufficiently strong advocate of homeschooling that the Home School Legal Defense Association PAC endorsed his 2008 campaign. But Christian leaders in Arkansas convinced Huckabee that vouchers would invite government intrusion into private Christian schools, leading him to oppose vouchers.

Huckabee supports the death penalty, although he has expressed regret and ambivalence toward it. He has also said that “three strikes” laws and “no parole” provisions are based more on “revenge” than sound criminal justice principles, while also noting that such policies were the result of the failed practice of “coddling criminals” from the 1970s. He has also stated, “We’ve got to quit locking up all the people that we’re mad at and lock up the people that we’re really afraid of, the people who are sexual predators and violent offenders.”

Huckabee has been a staunch advocate of pro-life views. He favors banning all abortions except for those needed to save the life of the mother, and he has supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He favors overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and adding a pro-life amendment to the Constitution. He has also said he believes legal abortion is a violation of the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

He has also made opposition to same-sex marriage a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, criticizing the June 2015 Supreme Court decision finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and calling for a constitutional amendment overturning the ruling.

Huckabee is a longtime supporter of gun rights. Both he and his wife are concealed carry permit holders. As governor he signed legislation protecting gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits, and he opposes a ban on assault weapons. He has spoken of the value of the Second Amendment not only to protect citizens against criminals but also as a bulwark against government “should it go completely awry and turn into tyranny.”

Huckabee has referred to religious liberty as the “foundation of all our liberties” and made the issue a major theme of his campaign. He has pledged that as president he would sign an executive order protecting businesses, churches and other entities from government penalties for exercising their belief in traditional marriage, and supported Hobby Lobby in its fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

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There is some question regarding his consistency on the issues of immigration and climate change. After first proposing in a book he wrote that illegal immigrants should be allowed to pay a fine and have a pathway to citizenship, he modified his position during the 2008 nomination battle to advocate for deportation with a streamlined process to allow them to legally return to the U.S. He has explained his change by pointing out that he never defined what the original pathway might be, and deportation with the opportunity to legally return within a few days or weeks would be the pathway he would establish.

More seriously, Huckabee appears to have flipped on climate change, or at least on whether he favors cap-and-trade. In October 2007 he spoke at the Global Warming and Energy Solutions Conference in New Hampshire and endorsed a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions. After receiving criticism over his stance he seemed to back away slightly in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, and by 2009 he appears to have completely abandoned his position and claims he only supported a voluntary program for businesses. His letter to the Journal references the cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide, however, which was a mandatory program.

Recently, Huckabee also backtracked on his previous support for raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare, as well as allowing some sort of vouchers or premium support in Medicare.

There is little indication that Huckabee’s agenda as governor differed from his stated campaign goals, suggesting he largely kept faith with the voters and delivered what he campaigned on, or at least did not surprise voters by doing things out of line with what he had given them to expect.

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Huckabee was criticized for campaign finance practices during his campaigns for U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor and governor, including paying himself from campaign funds as a media consultant and receiving speaking fees through a nonprofit he controlled. As governor he was sanctioned five times for various violations of Arkansas ethics rules, and he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from various people and groups, including many who had business with the state.

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There is little doubt that Huckabee is guided by strong principles and morals. His background as a pastor for a dozen years suggests that he bases many of his views and actions on conservative religious views. His comments regarding leaving the Republican Party if it fails to stand strongly on social issues indicate that he values principles over political compromise or expediency, at least in the realm of the issues he finds important.

Huckabee was one of the earliest endorsers of Marco Rubio’s 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate in Florida, at a time when most of the Republican establishment was supporting then-Gov. Charlie Crist. In other races, however, he endorsed candidates that were not generally the favorite of many conservatives and the tea party, such as David Dewhurst over Ted Cruz in Texas.

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As the governor of Arkansas at a time when Democrats controlled the legislature, Huckabee had little opportunity to enact what might be called bold conservative ideas. He did get statewide academic standards passed, likely to please conservatives concerned about low academic achievement, while his creation of ARKids First, essentially a Medicaid program for children of low-income families, will likely disappoint many conservatives concerned about expansion of the welfare state.

Nationally, Huckabee’s endorsement of the Fair Tax, which would replace the current federal income tax with a national sales tax, is probably the best example of his support for innovative policies, and it is likely to gain him support from many limited-government advocates who favor the idea. He has also supported allowing Social Security beneficiaries to receive a one-time buyout or annuity, another innovative and free-market-oriented policy.

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One definition of leadership is whether people will follow someone, and there is little doubt that Huckabee has established himself as a leader of the social conservative element within the Republican Party. His passion and commitment in this area is first-rate and inspires many to follow him. He served as chairman of both the Southern Governors Association and the National Governors Association, suggesting his peers respected his leadership skills as well.

He was also named one of America’s five best governors in 2005 by Time magazine, again suggesting broad respect for his leadership and governing skills.

One oft-voiced criticism of Huckabee is that he is “thin-skinned.” Arkansas-based media who covered his administration say he can be petty and vindictive, and he got into a public dispute with Glenn Beck after Beck described him as “progressive” because Huckabee had voiced support for First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity efforts.

His battles with the Club for Growth and free-market advocates, both of which represent a significant community within the Republican Party, seem gratuitous and unnecessary and suggest he may have limited appeal outside of socially conservative circles; it may be difficult for him to build coalitions within the broader conservative movement. His limited fundraising in 2008 also indicated a real inability to connect with the major donors who are needed to support a national campaign.

Huckabee’s political skills are considerable, as he was elected and re-elected three times in a state that was at the time a bastion of the Democratic Party, and he was able to turn a seriously underfunded campaign in 2008 into a strong challenge to ultimate nominee McCain. His overall affable personality, broadcast skills, debate ability, and strong support from the social conservative community make him a serious contender in 2016.

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Huckabee is a gifted and eloquent speaker. His background as a pastor serves him well in communicating with audiences, as does his extensive background in broadcast media. His debate performances in 2008 were generally considered to be very good, and he has little trouble articulating his views.

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Huckabee’s biggest single vulnerability may be the perception that he is simply a big-government conservative who will do little to promote a free-market economic system. While his commitment to social conservatism is beyond question and his views on foreign policy and national defense issues are well within the Republican mainstream, on economic issues he brings a populist as opposed to a free-market perspective. On occasion that will overlap with free-market views, but more often than not he likely would disappoint free-market advocates if he were in the White House.

Huckabee’s evolving position on immigration may be welcomed by conservatives, but his switch to oppose climate change regulations may breed suspicion that he flipped for political reasons. Similar concerns may be raised about his previous support for serious Social Security and Medicare reform long favored by many free-market advocates but since abandoned due to opposition to any real changes.

He also has a tendency to pick fights with members of the Republican coalition, particularly those with free-market principles like the Club for Growth. Huckabee’s “thin skin” is likely to get him in trouble on the campaign trail, needlessly alienating potential allies.

Huckabee’s record on pardons would be problematic in a campaign. A number of people he pardoned went on to commit horrific crimes, including murder and rape. This became a focus of attention in the 2008 campaign as opponents attempted to paint him as “soft on crime,” and it may become an issue again.

Finally, the issue of gifts received by Huckabee while in office and several admonishments by the state’s ethics officials are almost certain to be a staple of opposition ads in either a nomination or general election battle. Whatever the reality of the governor’s actions, he’s likely to be compared with the former governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell, who was convicted of corruption.

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Mike Huckabee receives a high mark for his communication skills and a low mark for free markets.

Huckabee is strongest as a communicator but otherwise receives low marks across the board – unethical behavior as governor, little to no record of being a fiscal conservative, and shifting positions on entitlements and immigration.

He also has a history of not being able to work well with others, whether with Democrats while he was governor or with other conservative fiscal groups in Washington, D.C.

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Huckabee rates low in fundraising, and that damages his viability score. Furthermore, while Huckabee is a talented communicator and has hints of great charm, it is unclear what he is running for – POTUS or pastor. Broadly knowledgeable, he continues to be most comfortable arguing over the least comfortable social issues of the day, therefore limiting his appeal.

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