Sen. Rand Paul may have won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the heart of the event, says Newsmax White House correspondent John Gizzi.
Don't count Huckabee out as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, he says.
"Gov. Huckabee, [is] known more today as a television host rather than a politician," Gizzi told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"Nonetheless, [he] had the heart of CPAC, even if he didn’t win the vote or come close. He was surrounded by an entourage of admirers, people were crowding to take their picture with him, and reporters wanted his comments.
"I talked to Mike Campbell, chairman of Gov. Huckabee's '08 campaign in South Carolina and the son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, [who] said Huckabee's leaning more toward running."
Gizzi said some conservatives in the party "don't fully believe he's completely pure, particularly on the spending issues, [and] there's others who think he's been out of it for a while, but he certainly has a following."
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That following is not unlike that of Ronald Reagan, Gizzi says.
"When a young Ronald Reagan spoke at California Republican conventions and then campaigned for Barry Goldwater in 1964, he drew unusually large crowds. Even after he was elected governor in 1966 and had not yet developed a record, he was a performer at state Republican conventions around the country," Gizzi said.
"A lot of that had to do with the fact he was a celebrity, host of a weekly television series and a movie actor as well. There's a lot of that with Mike Huckabee . . . a lot of people just like him, period."
Republican strategist Ron Christie, who writes for The Daily Beast, advised the GOP to avoid picking a moderate in the next presidential race.
"I love Gov. [Mitt] Romney. I had the chance to be on his debate team for his first run. He couldn't win. I respect and admire [Arizona Sen.] John McCain. He can't win. [Former Kansas Sen.] Bob Dole couldn't win," Christie told Malzberg.
"We need to have grassroots, strong, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, people who can draw a contrast between whomever the Democratic nominee might be in their vision to run the country.
"But I just don't think another middle-of-the-road moderate is going to get it done in 2016," Christie said.
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