Year in review: Mike Huckabee

This post is the seventh in a series looking back at the ups and downs of 2007.

When Mike Huckabee announced his plans to run for president last January, most of the country knew little about the former Arkansas governor. Newspaper stories often referred to his 110-pound weight loss as his best-known achievement. They called him an underdog and a long-shot. They said the conservative former Baptist preacher was entering a Republican field that was already crowded with candidates who had more money and more name recognition, such as John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. They called him the other man from Hope, Ark.

For his part, Huckabee embraced it. In what would become his signature move, he turned the criticisms into jokes. "When people say, 'What makes us think that we would elect another guy from Hope, Ark., to be president?' I say, 'Well, I've got a great campaign slogan: Give us one more chance,' " Huckabee told a Concord audience in June.

By early summer, Huckabee was still lagging behind the major Republicans. A quip he made at a May GOP debate that Congress spends money "like John Edwards in a beauty shop," referring to the Democrat's reported $400 haircuts, earned him some press. But his real breakout came at the Aug. 11 Iowa Straw Poll, where he placed a surprise second behind rival Mitt Romney, who spent nearly nine times the amount of money per vote. Huckabee has continued to run his campaign on a shoestring budget.

Huckabee got another, different sort of boost in October when kung-fu cult hero Chuck Norris endorsed him. Over the next month, Huckabee's poll numbers continued to rise, helped by some key Christian endorsements, Norris included, and a dedicated following of socially conservative Iowans. Huckabee spent considerable time in Iowa this fall and, by early December, was followed to the Granite State by a pack of press that grew with his popularity. He even brought Norris along for a mid-December campaign visit.

Huckabee's opponents began attacking him with more ferocity as his poll numbers climbed. They took swipes at his record on illegal immigration, crime and taxes. Huckabee spent significant time in December defending himself. Meanwhile, Huckabee climbed to second place in the national polls while holding steady at fourth place in New Hampshire.

Throughout the race, Huckabee has sought to define himself as the candidate with the best socially conservative record -- he says he's always been pro-life, pro-gun and anti-gay marriage -- while at the same time voicing support for issues not usually on the conservative Republican agenda, such as arts education and prevention-based health care.

The Monitor's coverage of Huckabee's interviews with the editorial board can be found here and here.

- Melanie Asmar
(Caricature by Mike Marland)