Huckabee seeks Catholic support
CONCORD, NH – Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee sees his conservative religious base as reaching beyond evangelical Protestants to Catholics as well.
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist preacher, won the Iowa caucus last week which kicks off the nominating process for the November presidential election, largely because of support from the state’s numerous evengelical community.
While campaigning in New Hampshire — where he is hoping for a solid third place finish in the state’s Tuesday primary — Huckabee told reporters on the bus on Monday that he felt his broad message resonated with many Catholics.
“Catholics were a major source of support for me in Arkansas. And they have been nationally. And it’s not only because of the pro-life and pro-family issues,” he said, refering to his opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.
“I certainly believe that Catholics are right about talking about poverty, disease and hunger. Things I talk about … I think a lot of evengelicals have not talked enough about it quite frankly,” he said.
Huckabee’s remarks point to a strategy that sees a broader coalition than the old “Religious Right” — one that unites not only socially conservative Catholics and evengelicals but also those who see Biblical sanction for helping the poor.
Huckabee said that much of his campaign staff was Roman Catholic — so much so that when he looked at the list last August he said he thought “we need some Baptists in this bunch here.”
He also said that he believed that he was “one of the few people who as a Baptist pastor actually spoke in Catholic churches. My church used to have a joint service with a Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian Church twice a year.”
Huckabee’s mix of economic populism and social conservatism also seems to be aimed at the “new evangelicals” such as Rich Cizik, vice-president for governmental affairs with the influential National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Religion plays a big role in U.S. politics where rates of belief and church attendance far exceed those that obtain in Europe. And with 60 million evangelcials and close to 70 million Catholics in a U.S. population of 300 million, they are two groups that no politician from either party can ignore.
Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria