"Life After" for Mike Huckabee

(CBS)

From CBS News' Joy Lin:

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Asked if he's laying the groundwork for another presidential run, former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee says he honestly doesn't know. With no phone calls from John McCain about a possible vice presidency, Huckabee says he's "not sitting around and waiting" for that to happen.

For now, Huckabee's being a good party member, focusing on the 2008 elections. The former Arkansas governor officially re-launched his campaign website Tuesday as Huck PAC, a political action committee dedicated to helping install like-minded Republicans (campaign supporters, thus far) onto state and Congressional rosters.

But even if Huckabee says he's not planning on running for president in 2012, he clearly hasn't ruled it out. Hours after the launch of his PAC, Huckabee was delivering a speech in a Super Tuesday state he lost, laying the groundwork for a broader base of support.

"Someone has told me Cornell is a little left of center for the most part," Huckabee mused shortly after taking the stage.

Pegged as an address about "faith in politics," Huckabee's wide ranging discussion to a crowd of 1200 began with the premise that he was much more than a religious leader and that, while faith informed his decisions, voters shouldn't vote for him on his religious affiliation alone.

"I got all the God questions in the debates," he said. "I wanted to scream sometimes." For a governor who dealt with issues such as education, healthcare, road systems, and taxes for over a decade, the only questions he felt like he received were about whether he believed in evolution or whether he thought Jesus would run for public office.

So as part of his speech, Huckabee offhandedly ticked through some of his favorite issues – his support for an education system that geared students for a creative economy, a healthcare system that rewarded health and not illness, a pro-life policy that he reasons is in congruence with the idea that all men were created equal. None of these stances are still posted on his website, though; to the crowd, Huckbee painted an image of himself that went beyond his career as a former Baptist minister, an identity that had fueled his support among evangelical voters but eventually stunted his crossover appeal.

Notably absent: any mention of the Fair Tax. That the countdown clock to the re-launch of MikeHuckabee.com had been pegged to April 15th provided the perfect opportunity for Huckabee to dish out more critique of the current tax system. But nada.

In what seems to be an attempt to shed his religious shell and Fair Tax platform, Huckabee has a long way to go in redefining himself and building a broader base. During the question and answer session, students challenged his endorsement of anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage legislation.

And even while Huckabee was behaving like a good Republican, he didn't perfectly toe the party line either. He criticized "conservative brethrens" who wanted to curb government without regard to whether individuals were able to govern themselves responsibility in the absence of it. It was an "unorthodox view," Huckabee admitted, to say that cutting government and taxes might not bring the "desired result" in an "uncontrolled society."

Still, without a bid for the presidency on the near horizon, Huckabee was franker and looser than he had been in the final weeks on the campaign trail.

A student who admitted he had a lot of fun turning 21 asked Huckabee if he had had any similar experiences.

Huckabee responded that he didn't get in a lot of trouble in college because he worked 40 hours and week and got through a four year degree in two years and three months. It was "God's way of protecting me from doing a lot of stupid things," Huckabee said.

"Obviously he didn't protect you all that well," Huckabee joked to the student, drawing a roar of laughter from the audience.
  • Joy Lin

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