While other potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates are emphasizing issues such as the middle class, foreign policy, or criminal justice, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is crossing the country to attract religious conservatives by focusing on social issues, reports The Wall Street Journal
Late last week, Huckabee missed the Conservative Political Action Conference
(CPAC), instead choosing to speak at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention Thursday night in Nashville and then making other stops in Tennessee and South Carolina through the weekend.
He's also been making trips across the country to pitch his new book, reports the Journal, and says that while others are discussing the threat of the Islamic State, the nation's budget or other issues, he'd rather talk about the social issues facing the nation.
The campaign for the hearts of the nation's religious conservatives appears to be gathering steam. He remains active in the Baptist church, and combined with his new book, his trips, and his television appearance, he's holding a spot near the top of the Iowa polls, despite the fact other potential rivals have traveled there more.
Such appeal could force those rivals to start speaking more about value issues such as life, marriage, and religious freedom, said Bob Vander Plaats, the chief executive of the Family Leader, an organization of religious conservatives in Iowa.
However, many of the other top names are focusing their attention elsewhere, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on unions; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on foreign policy; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with criminal justice; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the middle class.
Huckabee, at 59, also has the advantage of name recognition
, said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. Huckabee took the presidential nomination votes in Iowa and seven other states when he last ran in 2008, and had his own Fox News show from that time until early this year, when he dropped it to explore a new campaign.
He also continues to host his nationally syndicated radio program, and is touring to promote his 12th book, "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy."
But Kaufmann said that the focus on social conservatives may not be enough to win the nomination for Huckabee in his state or others.
"To win Iowa I think all the candidates are going to have to have strong foreign policy initiatives and a plan on how to address the deficit, as well as stands on social issues," he told The Wall Street Journal.
Huckabee expects to announce his decision to run by this spring, and to plan a campaign on the experience of having effectively and efficiently governed what was then considered a blue state.
But not everyone is convinced he's running, said Craig Robinson, a former Iowa GOP political director.
"Sometimes I think, 'Well, maybe he's just selling books,'" Robinson said.
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