Mike Huckabee's Mean Streak: Speech Turns His Contempt from Romney to Obama

For a guy who is widely described as friendly and affable, Mike Huckabee has a mean streak.  He started his Republican convention speech on Wednesday night with a pointed and seemingly pointless jab at Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  And he kept up a hard-edged tone.

Not so long ago, it was Romney on the receiving end of Huckabee’s caustic remarks.  Back in 2008, when he was nursing his bitterness at the failure of evangelicals to rally around his presidential bid, Huckabee put out a book that oozes with contempt for Mitt Romney, who he describes as one of those “political wannabes with self-inflicted funding [who] let themselves be sculpted and focus-grouped into what a high-priced pollster thinks is a winning package.”

Four years later, Huckabee’s hostility toward Barack Obama is enough to overcome his dislike for Romney, and he is fully on message.  Huckabee, like many of the speakers at this convention, pushed a variation on the Romney campaign’s resentment-stirring ads on welfare and rhetoric on food stamps.  The message to working people: those of you who work hard are getting taken advantage of by lazy people – in the words of radio personality Neal Boortz from Sunday’s Tea Party rally, the” looters, the moochers, the parasites” that make up the Democratic Party.  This theme has been repeated over and over again in various forms.  Huckabee’s take:

My working-poor parents told me I could do better. They taught me that I was as good as anyone else. It never occurred to them to tell me that I could rest comfortably and wait for Uncle Sugar to feed me, lead me, and then bleed me.

Another convention goal for the Romney campaign was to erase whatever lingering doubts evangelical Christians may have about voting for a Mormon.  It’s particularly interesting to have Huckabee deliver that message, since his 2008 primary campaign against Romney in Iowa was essentially based on Huckabee being the right kind of Christian.  In Tampa, Huckabee tied the question to another of the dishonest messaging strategy of the Romney campaign – that the Obama administration is waging a war on religious freedom.

Let me clear the air about whether guys like me would only support an evangelical. Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama, and he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb, and tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care…. I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country.

That approach to taking Romney’s Mormonism off the table was echoed in Paul Ryan’s address and also in remarks made by religious right leaders at Wednesday afternoon rally for Patriot Voices, Rick Santorum’s new organization.  Ralph Reed, of all people, talked about the lack of a religious test for public office.  He said he had been asked a “denigrating” question at the convention by someone who was trying to goad him into saying something bad about Romney’s faith.  Reed said conservative evangelicals are looking for someone who shares their values, not necessarily someone who goes to the same church. Reed recalled a time when evangelicals abandoned Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter and voted for Ronald Reagan, saying that’s what they will do with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Huckabee’s speech, like his recent aggressive defense of the embattled Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, could be part of an effort to keep him in the minds of conservative evangelicals as a potential future presidential candidate.  If so, he’s going to have competition from Rick Santorum, whose rally felt as much like the launch of his own presidential bid as it did for the Romney-Ryan ticket.  Also appearing at Santorum’s rally were Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Peggy Nance of Concerned Women for America, and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

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