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California's Duncan Hunter endorses Mike Huckabee

January 23, 2008 |  8:58 pm

Duncan Hunter, the San Diego County House member whose low-profile campaign for the Republican presidential nomination never really gained any traction anywhere, tonight endorsed Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.

In a joint statement this evening, both men praised each other and their newfound friendship discovered on the campaign trail. "Of the remaining candidates," Hunter said, "I feel that he is strongly committed to strengthening national defense, constructing the border fence and meeting the challenge of China's emergence as a military superpower that is taking large portions of America's industrial base."

The retiring congressman, who quit the presidential race himself last weekend after negligible performances in both Nevada and South....

Carolina, praised Huckabee's integrity and character as well as lauding the other GOP candidates for their many strengths.

"My personal choice is Mike Huckabee," said Hunter, who along with Sen. John McCain was the only other military combat veteran of either party in the presidential race.

The unexpected endorsement by the very conservative Hunter is unlikely to mean much in terms of actual money or supporters. There were so few of them, Hunter barely registered in the polls.

But in a raw political sense it will give Huckabee, the surprise Iowa caucus victor who's now having some campaign finance troubles of his own, some conservative cover. Huckabee has been attacked for raising taxes and supporting in-state tuitions for illegal immigrants' children by several conservative organizations, commentators and GOP competitors.

Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, responded that much of the spending increases were court-ordered, that he had also lowered 94 taxes, and that Republicans needed to be more compassionate and attentive to populist programs.

But in recent days, having raised only a fraction of the fourth-quarter money of, for instance, Rep. Ron Paul's nearly $20 million, Huckabee had to cut back his Florida staff in the last intense week before that state's Republican primary vote.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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