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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announces 2016 GOP presidential run

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist pastor and TV host, is making his second try for the White House

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

arkansas mugHOPE, Arkansas (CFP) — Saying he wanted to take America “from hope to higher ground,” former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee kicked off his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination with a speech to an enthusiastic crowd in his hometown May 5.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

“I ask you to join with me today not just so I can be president, but so we can preserve this great republic,” Huckabee said during a speech at community college in Hope, a town of 11,000 in southwest Arkansas where former President Bill Clinton was also born. “With your help, and God’s, we will make that journey.”

In the opening speech of his second presidential campaign, Huckabee sounded a note of economic populism, saying “power and money and influence have left a lot of Americans lagging behind.”

“They work hard, lift heavy things and sweat through their clothes grinding out a living, but they can’t seem to get ahead or, in some cases, even stay even,” he said. “A record number people are enrolled in government-operated help programs like food stamps not because they want to be in poverty, but because they are part of the bottom earning 90 percent of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for 40 years.”

But Huckabee, an ordained Baptist pastor, also played to his natural base of religious conservatives on the issue of same-sex marriage, blasting federal courts for “criminalizing Christianity in demanding that we abandon biblical principles of natural marriage.”

“Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law and enforce it,” he said. “The Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and they can’t overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s God.”

Huckabee said if elected, he would push for term limits on both Congress and the Supreme Court, whose justices now serve for life, and abolish the IRS. He also took a sharp shot at President Barack Obama’s diplomatic approach toward the Islamic world.

“When I hear the current president say he wants Christians to get off their high horse so we can make nice with radical jihadists, I wonder if he could watch a western from the 50s and be able to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are,” he said. “As president, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism. We will conquer it.”

Huckabee, 59, served as Arkansas governor from 1996 to 2007 and ran for president in 2008. With strong support from social conservatives, he won the Iowa caucuses and took seven other primaries, mostly in the South, before conceding to the eventual nominee, U.S. Senator John McCain.

Huckabee’s 2016 run was widely anticipated after he bowed out of his long-running Saturday evening talk show on the Fox News Channel in January. Noting his own financial sacrifice in leaving Fox, he asked his supporters for donations, while taking a swipe at Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and his other GOP rivals who currently hold elected office.

“I don’t have a global foundation or a taxpayer-funded paycheck to live off of. I don’t come from a family dynasty but a working family. I grew up blue collar and not blue blood,” he said, adding that other presidential candidates who currently hold elective office should resign.

“If you live off the government payroll and want to run for an office other than the one you’re elected to, then have the integrity and decency to resign the one you don’t want and pursue the one you decided you’d rather have.”

Though Huckabee moved from Arkansas to Florida when he took the job Fox after his 2008 loss, he regaled his hometown audience with details of his bucolic childhood in Hope.

“I ran trotlines all night at Bois D’Arc Lake with my dad and grandfather to catch catfish that we’d freeze and live off of for weeks,” he said. “It was here I was baptized in the Garrett Memorial Baptist Church after accepting Jesus in a vacation bible school when I was 10 years old. I truly went from Hope to higher ground.”

Huckabee is not the first presidential candidate to use Hope as a prop. In his 1992 campaign, Clinton also played up his roots in Hope, despite the fact that he had moved to the resort town of Hot Springs, in central Arkansas, at age 4.

Huckabee is the fourth Southern Republican to announce a 2016 presidential campaign, joining U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Other Southerners expected to seek the GOP nomination include former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas; U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas who went on to be elected to the Senate from New York.

Watch the video of Huckabee’s announcement speech:

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