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Mike Huckabee's Caribbean excursion

February 14, 2008 | 12:56 am

We speculated earlier that Mike Huckabee was continuing his all-but-hopeless presidential quest with an eye on his political future. David Sanders, a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau who knows the state's former governor far better, also offered some conjecture in a Wednesday column and came up with a more monetary motive.

From "Day 1," Sanders wrote, "the Huckabee campaign hasn't just been about running for president. It has also been a means by which to advance his career and relevance. Hefty speaking fees, handsome book deals and perhaps his own television show all lie ahead.

"So why should he drop out when momentum is now shifting his way, even though math proves he can't win? Well that's easy. There is still so much at stake."

We're not so sure about that momentum part. And Sanders' assessment struck us as a bit harsh.

Still, it came to mind with the news Wednesday evening that Huckabee will be taking a detour from the campaign trail in Wisconsin (site of a primary next Tuesday) to deliver a paid speech (amount unknown) to young professionals confabbing in the Cayman Islands.

Huckabee will leave the frigid Upper Midwest sometime on Friday and give his speech on Saturday. He promised to be back trolling for votes sometime Sunday. And he got somewhat defensive when pressed by reporters in the Badger State about ...

temporarily suspending what he has billed as a principled effort to ensure voters -- especially conservative ones -- keep having a choice in the Republican race.

The Times' Jim Rainey was there, and he reports that Huckabee insisted his brief side trip demonstrates what he's long been saying -- he's the one candidate who truly understands the economic crunch facing many Americans.

The reason for his trip, he said, is "real simple -- because I am the only person who doesn’t get paid by the taxpayers to campaign. Sen. [Barack] Obama, Sen. [Hillary] Clinton, Sen. [John] McCain campaign every day and I am paying for their campaigns. I’m paying because I am a taxpayer and I have to pay for their Senate salary, even if they are not on duty. The taxpayers aren’t paying a dime for me to campaign."

He went on: "I have to make a living. I do that through my writing and through my speaking. I’ve been doing that for quite some time. ... I'm not independently wealthy. I wish I was.” "

For more than 10 years -- until the end of 2006 -- he also was drawing a governor's check from Arkansas taxpayers, but that didn't come up.

Asked if it bothered him that, with his campaign in its last-gasp stage, he would be out of the country for close to 48 hours, Huckabee continued to flash heretofore hidden resentment toward the other White House contenders:

"It bothers me more that I'm having to go out of the country to make money to pay for the other guys, ... that you and I are having to fund candidaters who get a federal taxpayer paycheck whether they show up for the job and vote or not. I still have to pay my bills and I have to pay theirs. ... I'm subsidizing my opponents in that way."

Presumably, his mood about his gig will improve, once he gets in front of his sun-soaked audience.

-- Don Frederick

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