NPR logo Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR)

Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR)

Mike Huckabee
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At a Glance: Mike Huckabee

First Campaign

Read about Mike Huckabee's first campaign.

Once considered more a curiosity than a bona fide contender, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is now the chief remaining rival to front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona for the Republican presidential nomination.

But the math is against Huckabee, who trails far behind McCain in the count of delegates to the Republican National Convention. Huckabee has said he will remain in the race until either he or McCain secure the total number of delegates needed to officially clinch the Republican nomination.

Huckabee's support lies in large part with evangelical conservatives, who make up a sizable portion of the GOP base. It was these voters that helped catapult him to victory in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses on Jan. 3. Huckabee swept the Southern states on Super Tuesday, but he has won just one contest — in Kansas — since then.

Also on Huckabee's side is a high likability factor: The ordained Baptist minister is also an accomplished bass guitarist, and on the campaign trail, he often wins laughs from audiences with his off-the-cuff quips. Among his vocal supporters is action-movie star Chuck Norris, whose visibility on the campaign trail has helped raise Huckabee's profile among younger voters.

Huckabee first gained a small national profile in 2004 — not for his accomplishments as governor, but for his dramatic weight loss.

Huckabee dropped 110 pounds after he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He then pushed for programs to encourage Arkansans to quit smoking, exercise more and eat better. He did the same nationwide, when he promoted his book Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.

Huckabee was lieutenant governor in 1996, when Democratic Gov. Jim Guy Tucker resigned after being convicted of a felony in the Whitewater investigation. After serving out Tucker's term, Huckabee went on to win two four-year terms of his own.

Huckabee has described himself as a "paradoxical Republican" for advocating some policies not usually associated with conservatives, such as extending health coverage to uninsured Arkansas children. He has also been criticized by many on the right for his tax and immigration policies while governor.

But he's right in step with conservatives on other issues. Huckabee has backed the war in Iraq. He opposes abortion rights, same-sex marriage and civil unions. And during a GOP debate in May 2007, he indicated that he didn't believe in evolution. He later clarified his position, saying he does believe evolution should be taught in schools.