Political Postcard: Still Love For Bill Clinton In A Place Called Hope : It's All Politics Bill Clinton won Arkansas twice when he ran for president. The state's politics have taken a dramatic turn to the right since, but some in his hometown like the idea of Clinton as first gentleman.
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Political Postcard: Still Love For Bill Clinton In A Place Called Hope

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Political Postcard: Still Love For Bill Clinton In A Place Called Hope

Political Postcard: Still Love For Bill Clinton In A Place Called Hope

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Mike Huckabee kicked off his second run for the White House this past week in Arkansas; a state where he has deep roots that he shares with another famous politician, Bill Clinton. NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea talked to people there about both men and about another 2016 candidate with Arkansas ties - Hillary Clinton.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee, both Arkansans, each was Governor for more than a decade, but they also both hail from the same hometown, Hope. Here's Huckabee this week.

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MIKE HUCKABEE: We will make that journey from Hope to higher ground.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: And recall this from Clinton back in 1992.

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BILL CLINTON: I still believe in a place called Hope.

GONYEA: So you've got two guys who spent their youth going to some of the same schools and hanging out at some of the same places, though not at the same time since Clinton is nine years older. Before the Huckabee rally this week, Helen Wood was ready to cheer on the newest addition to the GOP presidential field.

HELEN WOOD: Very nice day. Big things happening in Hope.

GONYEA: Wood, a retiree from a local school, is a Huckabee backer, but then she offers this.

WOOD: I have respect for the things that President Clinton did as president while he was in office.

GONYEA: So praise for Clinton at a Republican event. Certainly there are plenty of Bill Clinton critics in Arkansas, but Clinton and Huckabee remain popular in the state. Roby Brock, who runs a multimedia political and business news outlet based in Little Rock, says it's because both are so good at the retail politics that Arkansas demands - lots of hand shaking and remembering everybody's name. Here's Brock on Clinton.

ROBY BROCK: He can still talk to a guy that was, you know, fixing a car underneath, you know, on his back in an engine shop, you know. And Mike Huckabee's got those same blue-collar roots and can communicate that very well.

GONYEA: As for what any of this means for Hillary Clinton, Brock says she's not as popular as her husband in Arkansas, not by far. But he says she does benefit from some residual goodwill. It is strange to listen to tape of her from back when she was Arkansas's first lady and hear this native of suburban Chicago with a hint of the South in her voice.

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HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: The route to being somebody in this society starts with education. And we intend to be sure that everybody in this room and every child in this state...

GONYEA: Again, that's Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1983. Now, don't look for the state to get behind her presidential run. Arkansas has gone through a transition and has become a Republican state. But even one Huckabee fan this week smiled at the notion of Bill Clinton moving back into the White House. This is 28-year-old business owner Brandi Tuttle in Hope.

BRANDI TUTTLE: It'll be a first for sure.

GONYEA: It'll be a first. Well, how do you think he'd do? Do you like the idea of Bill Clinton going back?

TUTTLE: I think he'll do great because he's been there before, and he's known how to do it.

GONYEA: Huckabee's announcement this week could very well be the most attention Arkansas gets in the entire 2016 presidential campaign. But folks in Hope and elsewhere have been enjoying their connection to three potential big players in the race. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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