DALLAS (BP)–Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of The Dallas Morning News Sunday, giving them some momentum heading into Tuesday’s primary and caucuses in Texas.
Democrats and Republicans will hold contests in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont, although Huckabee believes his best chance of a win is in Texas, which boasts a large population of evangelicals. Texas’ unique system gives voters the ability literally to vote twice on the same day — in the primary and then at the party caucus that night.
The Morning News’ editorial board acknowledged that John McCain is “all but guaranteed” to win the GOP nomination but said Huckabee’s “sunny-side-up brand of conservatism” could be popular in years to come. Win or lose in November, the newspaper said, the “GOP is destined to spend the next few years redefining itself.”
“To that end, Mr. Huckabee, 52, should be a top leader in tomorrow’s Republican Party,” the newspaper wrote. “His good-natured approach to politics — ‘I’m a conservative; I’m just not mad about it,’ as he likes to say — is quite appealing after years of scorched-earth tactics from both parties. He’s a pragmatist more concerned with effective government than with bowing to ideological litmus tests. For example, he has proven himself willing to violate anti-tax dogma to undertake investment in infrastructure for the sake of long-term prosperity.
“Mr. Huckabee also is good on the environment, contending that the future of the conservative movement depends on embracing conservation and stewardship of the natural world. And he’s a compassionate conservative especially in tune with middle-class anxieties in a globalizing economy.”
As he has in other states holding primaries, Huckabee spoke at local churches Sunday — Grace Community Church in Houston and Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington.
The newspaper said it disagrees with Huckabee’s conservative views on abortion and “gay rights.” He is a former Southern Baptist minister. But a vote for him nevertheless is a “good investment in the Republican Party’s future,” the paper said.
“He truly is representative of the next wave of evangelical chieftains and, if nothing else, will emerge from this primary season the leader of one of the most influential factions in the GOP coalition,” the editorial said. “We look forward to having him around to help shape and lead the Republican Party beyond November. That’s why we encourage Texas Republicans to mark their ballots for Mr. Huckabee in the GOP primary: to demonstrate to the party’s elite that Mr. Huckabee and his vision have a solid constituency.”
The Morning News’ endorsement of Obama could be important in what is a tight race with Hillary Clinton in the state. The two are running neck-and-neck, with Obama a point or two ahead in many polls.
“On questions of substance and leadership style, Mr. Obama is the better choice,” the editorial said. “In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton’s antics mocking his optimism, Mr. Obama has shown that it is possible to have both hope and intellectual heft. Her campaign has confused proximity to power with work experience, selectively taking credit for her husband’s accomplishments.
“At times, Obama-mania has threatened to obscure the substantive differences between the two candidates’ proposed policies. A close examination shows that Mr. Obama is on the right side of several key issues.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.