If former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee decides to run again for the White House, the Republican has an idea of how he would like the race to go.
“I’m thinking this time, if I get in, that I’ll be the one who wins and the others will be the ones who are really, really sad about that,” Huckabee told Columbia reporters Friday before attending a private fundraiser for Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington, at the Nelson Mullins law firm.
Huckabee is one of several candidates eyeing a possible 2016 White House run who has shown up in the Palmetto State lately.
On the Democratic side of the ledger, Vice President Joe Biden returned last month, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was unavailable for comment, came back to the state to deliver the keynote address at the S.C. Democratic Party’s issues conference in Myrtle Beach on Saturday.
Republican Huckabee said it was good to be back in South Carolina, where he recently toured to promote his new book.
Despite not being taken very seriously at first, Huckabee finished second to U.S. Sen. John McCain in the state’s 2008 GOP presidential primary, losing to McCain by only 3 percentage points – or 14,743 votes.
Huckabee told reporters in Greenville on Friday that his 2008 results were hurt by snow in the Upstate. His turnout also suffered, he said, because he did not campaign in South Carolina in the days before the primary.
In Columbia, Huckabee said of his 2016 prospects: “I’m still hoping that every other Republican drops out and lets me have it in the same coronation that the Democrats are talking about letting Hillary ( Clinton) take it.
“Barring that, every opponent is a serious one because you never know where a primary is going.”
Huckabee would not say whether, or how, he would compete with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca who also is considering a bid for the GOP nomination.
“I’d like to say that we would be complimentary of each other because we do share the same vision and passions about foreign policy,” said Huckabee, who just returned from a trip to Israel, where he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Huckabee’s harmony with Graham crossed a line last year, when Huckabee appeared in an ad lauding Graham, then facing a heated GOP Primary challenge. (Huckabee subsequently released a statement saying he was not endorsing Graham, just thanking him for his foreign policy positions.)
Graham’s presence in the 2016 campaign would elevate the national security debate, Huckabee said, adding, “Frankly, the rate of marginal tax rates are immaterial if we’re all dead. And we’ll all be dead if we don’t take seriously the threat that a nuclear Iran would pose to our national security.”
The Common Core battle, in winter
While U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was dazzling conservative activists at the Conservative PAC conference in Washington, D.C., his father, Rafael Cruz, was captivating a similar – albeit much smaller – group Thursday in the Palmetto State.
The elder Cruz was the main event at a rally against Common Core education standards, organized by Sheri Few and her S.C. Parents Involved in Education pro-abstinence and anti-federal government group.
As Cruz paced behind the podium on the State House steps a few paces away from George Washington’s statue, about 35 people stood below, bundled up in the 40-degree weather, some holding white posterboard with anti-Common Core messages scrawled in black marker.
Few called the rally to try to build momentum to fight a revision in the state’s education standards that lawmakers ordered after dissent over Common Core reached a fever pitch last year.
“School choice is going to be the civil rights issue of the 21st Century,” said Cruz, before shifting to the topic of the day.
“Common Core is not about education. Common Core is about control. Government wants to control every aspect of our lives. In Nazi Germany, ( Adolf) Hitler said, ‘Give me the children and I will rule the world.’ ”
Cruz went on to compare Common Core with “brainwashing” and the force “destroying the foundations that have made America the greatest country on the face of the earth.”
Cries of “yes” and other affirmations rose up from the onlookers.
Few made opposition to the standards, which outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level, the focus of her unsuccessful campaign for state schools chief last year. She finished third in the GOP primary.
When Cruz finished, Few reminded the audience that 56,000 people voted for her and asked them to attend an S.C. PIE fundraiser.
The GOP’s pastor-whisperer?
The founder of the California-based American Renewal Project is bringing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to South Carolina on Tuesday to meet with about 100 pastors at a lunch in Columbia and about 125 pastors at a dinner in Greenville.
Jindal will chat with the pastors and take their questions.
Lane said he is working on an April drop-by with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and he expects former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee to visit with the pastors as well.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have been invited to similar events as well.
The American Renewal Project tries to give GOP White House hopefuls a chance to speak with pastors across the country.
It does not pick a favorite, Lane said. “All we’re doing is setting the table.”
Reporter Andrew Shain contributed. Reach Self at (803) 771-8658