Theres a new powerbroker behind Florida Republicans -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Huckabee has moved to Florida and is playing an increasingly prominent role in the Sunshine States politics.
Florida was not exactly Huckabee territory in 2008. He came in a distant fourth in the Florida primary in January of that year, behind Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Huckabee carried four rural counties in North Florida and claimed 14 percent of the vote.
Huckabee is considering running for president in 2012, but some national pundits do not believe the former Arkansas governor will take another shot at the White House. Whether he is looking to improve his performance in the crucial Florida primary in 2012 or endorsing candidates with similar principles who stood by him, Huckabee is increasingly playing a role in Florida politics.
Huckabee gained some national headlines back in April when it was revealed that he was now registered in Florida. He is registered as a Republican in Walton County, where he rents a home in Miramar Beach.
Since his presidential campaign, Huckabee has remained active in politics and civic affairs. He formed Huck PAC, a political action committee, to support Republican candidates. While Huck PAC has backed more candidates in Arkansas than in any other state, the organization is getting behind four Republicans in Florida -- just as many candidates as they are backing in California and Iowa, site of the first presidential caucus which Huckabee carried in 2008.
Huckabee has come out strongly for former House Speaker and former state Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster, who is now facing a crowded Republican primary field to take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. Webster had backed Huckabees presidential bid.
After initially declining to enter the race in October 2009, Webster entered the race in April and quickly was backed by Huck PAC.
Webster introduced Huckabee at a fundraiser in Tallahassee for the Suwannee River Boy Scout Council in March 2010 and the former Arkansas governor encouraged Webster to return to politics.
You have to run for something else, Huckabee told Webster at the event.
Huckabee offered strong words of support and affection in his endorsement of Websters congressional bid.
Senator Webster is known, loved and respected not only as a statesman in Florida but throughout our nation, said Huckabee in a statement backing Webster. He is a man with a moral compass whose bearings do not sway with the prevailing winds and his character is constant.
Huckabee is also backing another Florida Republican who endorsed his 2008 presidential campaign -- former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Huckabee was an early backer of Rubio. The former presidential candidate backed Rubio in June 2009 when the polls showed Gov. Charlie Crist, at that time a Republican, a heavy favorite for the GOP nomination for the Senate race.
When someone stands on principles throughout their career in politics, it's an easy choice to endorse their candidacy for the United States Senate, said Huckabee when he endorsed Rubio. Marco believes in smaller government. He is a firm supporter of life. As the former Florida speaker, he was incredibly effective at bringing new ideas to the table and working to see them passed into law.
Huck PAC is also standing behind Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, in his bid for an open congressional seat. Rivera served as Miami-Dade co-chairman of Huckabees presidential campaign.
Rep. Rivera is the type of candidate who has consistently brought much-needed energy, enthusiasm and expertise to Florida politics, said Huckabee when he endorsed Riveras congressional campaign. He ... can help our party expand its rapidly shrinking base.
Nor is Huckabee standing behind only candidates for federal office in Florida. He endorsed the reelection of incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.
After spending time with Mike and his wife, Stephanie, I know that he is right man for the job. Full of passion and the perseverance needed to make a positive difference in the lives of the Floridians he represents, Huckabee said of Haridopolos. Haridopolos backed Huckabees presidential campaign in 2008.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.