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ELECTION 08: Huckabee TX hopes no joke

DALLAS (BP)–Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee still has high hopes of winning Texas a week from Tuesday, but he’s not above poking fun at what a few Republican observers see as an overextended stay in the race.

The former Southern Baptist pastor appeared on one segment of “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, telling an audience on the show’s “Weekend Update” that he’ll know when it’s time to bow out.

“Mike Huckabee does not overstay his welcome,” he said. “When it’s time for me to go, I’ll know, and I’ll exit out with class and grace.”

The punchline? To laughter, Huckabee had to be told three times to leave the set, before he finally got the message and left. Part of the Weekend Update routine also had Huckabee saying he was still hoping to capture a good portion of the party’s “superdelegates” –- which in actuality are only part of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process. Told this fact, Huckabee looked puzzled and said, to laughter, “Uh-oh. That’s not good news.”

His appearance was part of his campaign’s strategy of taking advantage of not only free media but also in attempting to reach young voters. Huckabee has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” several times.

But Huckabee is serious about his chances of winning Texas and its big population of evangelicals, as are a number of Christian leaders in the state. Huckabee has carried eight states during the primaries -– five of them in the deep South.

“We want people to realize this thing is far from over,” James T. Draper Jr., a Huckabee supporter, Texas resident and the former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Draper was among a handful of pastors who appeared at a press conference in Dallas last week to tout Huckabee.

“Without the shadow of a doubt, if Christians get out to vote on March 4, Mike Huckabee will win Texas,” Kyev Tatum, pastor of Serving House Baptist Church in Fort Worth, was quoted as saying.

Other Texas pastors supporting Huckabee include Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, and Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, the newspaper said.

“He was totally off the charts when he brought that message at Prestonwood,” Graham said, referring to Huckabee’s sermon at the church last year. “Now he’s a viable national candidate. There’s no questioning his ability to connect with people. He’s the most articulate communicator of conservative values in the campaign.”

NADER’S IN -– Ralph Nader said Sunday he once again will run as a third-party presidential candidate, although what impact he’ll have on the race is uncertain. He received 2.7 percent of the vote in 2000 –- and some blamed him for keeping Al Gore out of the White House -– but just three-tenths of one percent in 2004, when Democrats were more unified. If primary turnout is an indication, Democrats may be even more unified this year.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Nader rejected suggestions that he helped put President Bush in the White House, and he said Democrats won’t be able to blame him this year if a Republican wins again.

“If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form,” he said.

OBAMA WIFE SPARKS CONTROVERSY -– Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, sparked controversy during a speech recently when she made a comment some viewed as unpatriotic.

“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change,” she said.

Her comment was noticed by the campaign of frontrunner John McCain and his wife Cindy.

“I’m proud of my country,” Cindy McCain said at a rally for her husband. “I don’t know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I’m very proud of my country.”

With her comment making the radio talk show circuit, Michelle Obama soon issued a clarification in an interview with WJAR-TV in Providence, R.I. She said she “absolutely” had always been proud of her country.

“What I was clearly talking about was that I’m proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process,” she told the TV station, according to the Associated Press. “For the first time in my lifetime, I’m seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven’t seen and really trying to figure this out — and that’s the source of pride that I was talking about.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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