Former Arkansas Governor Eyes Presidency

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Hoping to become the second former Arkansas governor to take up residence in the White House, Republican Mike Huckabee on Sunday announced his intention to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

"People want an authentic conservative who has a proven record of results," Huckabee said in a statement. "I've concluded that I should take this necessary and vital step to bring a new kind of optimistic leadership to the public square."

Huckabee hopes to follow in the footsteps of former President Bill Clinton, the Democrat who served as Arkansas governor from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1983 to 1992. Huckabee took office in 1996, filling out the term of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker who resigned following his felony conviction in the Whitewater scandal. Huckabee was twice elected governor, ending his final term in January.

Although Huckabee and Clinton are from different political parties, there are similarities in their backgrounds. Both men are from Hope, Ark., and both have led the National Governors Association.

Both men also served as governor for more than 10 years in a state that limits governors to two four-year terms.

Huckabee has been praised for his leadership in Arkansas. Among other accolades, Time magazine named him one of the "five best governors in America" in 2005.

In an interview on Sunday with Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," Huckabee said he thinks the Iraq war has overshadowed the domestic agenda.

He also expressed concern about the "overuse" of the National Guard.

"As a governor for 10-and-a-half years and commander in chief of our Guard, I've seen 80 percent of our Guard forces deployed to Iraq. Now we're talking about sending them back yet again and again. These are citizen soldiers. They didn't sign up to be gone all the time. They signed up to be soldiers called upon for extraordinary duty, and they've done it. They're willing to do their duty, but the toll that it's taking on their families, their employers and their communities is -- it's beginning to really wear," Huckabee said.

Huckabee, who's been criticized for raising taxes during his tenure as governor, insisted that he also was the first governor in Arkansas history to ever lower taxes.

He said the state was under a Supreme Court order to raise revenue for our schools. "We did it, but with the insistence that we wouldn't just raise money, we would raise standards and expectations, and we did. And Education Week now says that we have some of the most improved schools in the nation."

Huckabee said the state also rasied fuel taxes during his tenure -- "to improve what was the worst road system in the country. Now we're rated as having one of the best."

Despite the tax hikes, Huckabee said no one can question his conservative record as governor.

Asked if he would favor tax hikes as president, Huckabee said he doesn't thing that is "really where we need to go. It's not that our taxes are too low, it's that our spending is too high."

He added that he "wouldn't propose any new taxes. I wouldn't support any." But, he said, "if we're in a situation where we are in a different level of war, where there is no other option, I think that it's a very dangerous position to make pledges..."

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, is pro-life.

His successful effort to lose weight -- 110 pounds -- made national headlines and made a health advocate out of the formerly overweight governor.

Huckabee joins an already crowded field of Republican contenders, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, and two former governors, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.

Several other potential candidates, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have yet to announce their intentions.

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