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perkins.jpgFamily Research Council Action, Washington’s premier Christian Right advocacy group, yesterday issued a defense of Mike Huckabee in the face of what it called a “reverse religious test” sparked by Huckabee’s past statements about AIDS, homosexuality, and the need to “take this nation back for Christ.” With Huckabee surging in recent national polls, those remarks have generated plenty of controversy.
In an interview last week with Beliefnet, however, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins raised doubts about Huckabee’s viability and noted that Huckabee is the only Republican presidential candidate he has not met with personally since the race got underway. Perkins said that every other candidate, including the socially moderate Rudy Giuliani, had requested such a meeting.
“He may be trying to avoid the leadership [of the Christian Right] and it may be because of other issues,” Perkins said, citing Huckabee’s stances on illegal immigration and taxes, which have been criticized by some conservative groups.
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Despite Huckabee’s surge in Iowa—polls showing Huckabee’s dramatic national gains hadn’t been released at the time of the interview last Tuesday—Perkins said there are concerns among evangelical leaders over the Baptist preacher’s ability to excite economic and defense conservatives who fill out the GOP’s base.
“Huckabee is certainly good on our issues, but is there enough to bring together a winning coalition?” Perkins asked. “There are some questions about that.”
“Social conservatives alone cannot elect a president,” he continued. “We have to work within a conservative coalition, so there has been a desire to work together and all agree upon” a candidate to rally around.
“That doesn’t mean he’s not a good candidate,” Perkins added. “I like a lot of what I’ve seen of him.”
Though Huckabee has picked up endorsements from evangelical activists like the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon and Patrick Henry College chancellor Michael Farris, top-tier Christian Right leaders like Perkins, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer have declined to be publicly supportive.
During the same interview, Perkins praised Arizona Senator John McCain, who is viewed with suspicion by much of the Christian Right since he called the movement’s leaders “agents of intolerance” during his 2000 presidential bid and authored 2002’s McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which restricted the political activities of advocacy groups. Perkins said he had met with McCain recently.
“He does have a strong record on the life issue and I think I still see him as a very viable candidate who’s making a comeback, working aggressively, and has staked out the right position on the new Iraq surge policy,” Perkins said. “So if you’re a ‘security voter’ concerned with radical Islam, you have more than just the choice of Rudy Giuliani, with all his baggage on social issues.”
Perkins said he us unlikely to endorse a candidate in the presidential race. “You become a trophy on their wall and never hearing from them again,” he said of his past experiences with candidate endorsements.


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