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Mike Huckabee, long gone from the White House race, still bugs one GOP critic

August 7, 2008 | 10:32 am

Political grudges often die hard.

Take, for example, the animus that a leading anti-tax, anti-big-government Republican holds toward good ol' Mike Huckabee.

Earlier this week, Club for Growth President Pat Toomey issued a statement aimed at lending his voice to the burst of chatter surrounding little-known Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia as a top-notch pick John McCain could make for a running mate. "For economic conservatives," said Toomey, a former House member from Pennsylvania, Cantor "would be a good choice."Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee continues to build a base among social conservatives

But first, Toomey felt compelled to give this warning to McCain: “Choosing someone like Mike Huckabee would indicate an abandonment of limited-government, free-market principles."

When Huckabee, riding support from social conservatives, vaulted from long shot to (briefly) major contender for the GOP presidential nod, Toomey's Club for Growth emerged as perhaps his most ardent critic, contending that his record as governor of Arkansas -- on the spending and taxation front -- was downright liberal. Huckabee's campaign responded by accusing the club of trying to smear him.

All that, of course, is ancient history. But Toomey's latest comment called to mind how NOT in the picture Huckabee appears to be in the vice presidential conversation.

He performed way above expectations as a candidate -- winning the Iowa caucuses, plus a handful of states on Super Tuesday in early February -- and the rapport he enjoyed with McCain was much remarked upon. Now, however, it's the rival whom McCain seemed to like least in the Republican race -- Mitt Romney -- who is a much hotter veep prospect.

Huckabee, for his part, is steadily going about building a national base among social conservatives. Along with his regular appearances on the Fox News Channel as a commentator, he's continuing to travel the country for speaking engagements. Tuesday night, he could be found in Midland, Tex., where the Odessa American reported he spoke on "family values" and (perhaps to Toomey's surprise) "limited government."

And next week, Huckabee will be one of the featured speakers at a large gathering of evangelicals in Washington sponsored by TheCall, a group that, according to its Web site, believes the nation "is in desperate need of the mercy of God and a great Spiritual Awakening."

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

[UPDATE: The club, even as it provides advice to McCain on who should be his running mate, technically is not yet aboard his bus. Club spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said in a statement: "We have not yet made a formal endorsement in the presidential race, but we have been unsparing in our criticism of Barack Obama’s egregiously anti-growth policies."]