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Why Did Huckabee Enlist In The Culture War?

The interesting thing to me about the AP's recent Mike Huckabee revelations--that, while running for Senate in 1992, he called AIDS a "plague" whose victims needed to be quarantined, and complained that the disease received too many federal research dollars--isn't that Huckabee said these things. (I don't know for sure, but it sounds like the kinds of thing that was well within the conservative evangelical mainstream in 1992.) Nor do I think these comments are likely to hurt him much in the GOP primaries. (Given the previous point, I certainly don't see them hurting him with evangelicals, though, as Mike Allen notes, they could hurt perceptions of his general-election viability somewhat.) What's interesting to me is Huckabee's rather abrupt evolution from fire-breather in 1992 to a kind of proto-compassionate conservative candidate in his run for lieutenant governor the following year, according to this recent Times profile. As the Times reports: 

Mr. Huckabee ran largely on social issues like abortion, portraying his opponent, Senator Dale Bumpers, a Democrat who was virtually an Arkansas institution, as a pornographer because he supported the National Endowment for the Arts. But attacking the popular veteran backfired; Mr. Huckabee was badly beaten. By the next year, when Mr. Huckabee ran for lieutenant governor in a special election, he sounded more like the conservative populist he is today, talking about caring for the elderly and other ways government could improve people’s lives.

The speed with which Huckabee shifted from a fire-and-brimstone candidate of the right to a kinder, gentler new-look evangelical, along with his relatively moderate record in the Southern Baptist leadership before then, suggests that the '92 race was the aberration in his career. I'd like to read/hear more about why he decided to go that route in '92, who might have influenced him, etc. It doesn't seem like the kind of persona he'd have constructed on his own. On the other hand, maybe that's exactly what happened. Maybe he was just an ambitious guy who thought, incorrectly as it turns out, that this was what voters in Arkansas wanted to hear, even if his own heart wasn't in it.

--Noam Scheiber