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God-O-Meter

huckabee.jpgIt finally happened. Mike Huckabee, who scored God-o-Meter’s first and only 10 rating of the 2008 race and had the audacity to stay there for three full weeks, has been knocked down to a 9. And it came at the hands of some fellow Baptists. Bob Novak reports in The Washington Post that the ranks of elite evangelicals for Huckabee are conspicuously short on Southern Baptists, even though Huckabee is a former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The reason: Huck never signed onto the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1970s:

Criticism from co-religionists stands apart from criticism by the Club for Growth, the Cato Institute and the Arkansas Eagle Forum of Huckabee’s 10 big-government, high-tax years as governor. Because no Republican candidate since Pat Robertson in 1988 has depended so much on support from evangelicals, opposition by Huckabee’s fellow Southern Baptists is significant.
Huckabee’s base is reflected by sponsors of Tuesday’s fundraising luncheon (requesting up to $4,600 a couple) at the Houston home of Steven Hotze, a leader in the highly conservative Christian Reconstruction movement. State Rep. Debbie Riddle was the only elected official on the host committee, most of whose members were not familiar names in Texas politics. David Welch is executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council. Jack Tompkins heads a firm providing Internet services to the Christian community. Entrepreneur J. Keet Lewis is an active Southern Baptist.
A better-known committee member was Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America. In endorsing Huckabee on Nov. 1, Scarborough said, “I acknowledge that Huckabee is not the perfect candidate” but one “who will listen to wise counsel.” Scarborough and Huckabee clashed during the Baptist wars. Fighting to drive the liberals from the temple, Scarborough was badly defeated for president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas while Huckabee embraced the liberal church establishment to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Judge Paul Pressler, who led the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence in the late ’70s, agreed with Scarborough about Huckabee’s orientation and went a different route in presidential politics. When Huckabee on Nov. 9 announced the Southern Baptist leaders supporting him, Pressler was not on the list; on Dec.
Huckabee was irritated that Richard Land, a prestigious Southern Baptist leader, had not endorsed him. “Richard Land swoons for Fred Thompson,” he said, though as a policy Land endorses no one. Huckabee appears to believe that everyone in the Southern Baptist Convention is obliged to support him: “If my own abandon me on the battlefield, it will have a chilling effect.”

For a candidate whose rise has depended on evangelicals, God-o-Meter finds this pushback from leaders in the country’s largest evangelical denomination an intriguing twist, to be sure. It may even turn out to be consequential. But because Huckabee has already broken through to the evangelical rank and file, God-o-Meter isn’t sure how much that pushback from the elites will really matter.


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