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ELECTION 08: Gingrich says Huckabee GOP’s ‘best performer’; leaders consider third party

WASHINGTON (BP)–Newt Gingrich isn’t endorsing Mike Huckabee for president, but it’s becoming apparent it wouldn’t bother him if the former Arkansas governor won the Republican nomination.

The former speaker of the house, Gingrich posted a guest blog on Huckabee’s website Sept. 24, and then a few days later gave his outlook on the GOP race, putting Huckabee in a pretty good light.

“Both [Rudy] Giuliani and [Mitt] Romney are beginning to articulate really dramatic change. I think that [Fred] Thompson has not yet,” Gingrich said Sept. 30 on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“I think Huckabee is very effective, and if Huckabee can find money, he will be dramatically competitive almost overnight. He’s probably the best performer in terms of giving speeches and being appealing.”

Huckabee trails the leading Republican candidates in fundraising and is fifth in many national polls, although his social conservative views have made him a favorite among some evangelicals in Iowa, which in January will hold its caucus, the first official test of the candidates. He’s tied for third with Thompson at 13 percent in the latest Insider Advantage Iowa poll, trailing Romney (24 percent) and Giuliani (16 percent). RealClearPolitics.com’s average of the latest five Iowa polls puts Huckabee in fourth at 9 percent.

Gingrich’s blog focused mostly on his non-partisan organization American Solutions for Winning the Future, although he also applauded Huckabee.

“Over the past few months I’ve been very impressed with the Governor’s openness to new ideas and solutions for improving our country. He showed genuine leadership a few weeks ago by being the first candidate to sign the Nine Nineties in Nine debate pledge,” Gingrich wrote, referring to a pledge to, if nominated, debate the Democratic nominee for 90 minutes in nine straight weeks leading up to the general election. It supposedly would be a “no rules” Lincoln-Douglas-type debate. “By committing to a much more in-depth, solution-oriented political dialogue in our country, Governor Huckabee showed that he’s truly interested in real change.”

Interestingly, former Democratic President Bill Clinton also has noticed Huckabee.

“[Y]our only darkhorse that’s got any kind of chance is my former governor, Mr. Huckabee. He’s the best speaker they’ve got,” Clinton said Sept. 30 on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

NONE OF THE ABOVE? — Approximately four dozen mostly anonymous pro-family leaders met in Salt Lake City Sept. 29 to discuss their options if both the Republican and Democratic parties nominate pro-choice candidates for office. In the end, they decided they would support a third-party candidate in such a scenario.

“The result was almost unanimous,” Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, one of the participants, wrote in a New York Times commentary Oct. 4.

“Speaking personally, and not for the organization I represent or the other leaders gathered in Salt Lake City, I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs,” Dobson wrote. “Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.”

Another participant was Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

“What was agreed upon was what could be called a statement of principle, to the effect that if both of the major parties nominate a pro-abortion-rights candidate we will consider supporting a third-party candidate,” Perkins wrote in his daily e-mail Oct. 3. “Given the present field of pro-life candidates seeking the Republican nomination and the current polling data from the early states, which are key in advancing a candidate, I doubt there will be a need for a third-party effort.”

But Huckabee, for one, says he would not run on any third-party ticket.

“No, I think a third party only helps elect Hillary [Clinton],” Huckabee told Washingtonpost.com. “I don’t see that being a good strategy for those who really care about pushing a pro-family, pro-life agenda. If they want to do that, the smart thing to do is coalesce their support around Mike Huckabee. If they do that, I’ll become the nominee, I’ll win the White House.”

Huckabee also urged conservatives to remain committed to their beliefs.

“I’m a little concerned that some of the evangelical leaders seem to be less committed to the principles that got them involved in politics in the first place, and more into the politics than the principles,” Huckabee said. “You hear some of them saying, ‘Well, this guy believes with us, but we want to get somebody that can raise money.’ Or, ‘We want to get somebody that we think is going to win.’ Well, when it gets down to their picking things based on completely secular reasons, and it’s not about the issues, I think they completely marginalize themselves.”

CLINTON PLEDGES EMBRYONIC STEM CELL FUNDS — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blasted what she called President Bush’s “war on science” Oct. 4 and pledged to lift Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Bush has twice vetoed embryonic stem cells bills, saying it would be wrong to force taxpayers to fund the “deliberate destruction of human embryos.”

“When I am president, I will end this assault on science,” Clinton said. “America will once again be the innovation nation.”

Even though some scientists say embryonic stem cells hold much promise, they have yet to lead to any cures. By contrast, research using non-embryonic stem cells — which Bush supports — has produced treatments for at least 73 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research.

Bush also has promoted embryo adoption, a unique method by which couples — particularly those who are infertile — adopt “extra” embryos. Bush has held press conferences standing alongside children born through the procedure.

“I believe America must pursue the tremendous possibilities of science, and I believe we can do so while still fostering and encouraging respect for human life in all its stages,” he said during a 2005 speech. “In the complex debate over embryonic stem cell research, we must remember that real human lives are involved — both the lives of those with diseases that might find cures from this research and the lives of the embryos that will be destroyed in the process.”
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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