Huckabee Faces The Spotlight's Harsh Glare

Mike Huckabee
Republican Presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov., Mike Huckabee, makes comments during a press conference in Dallas, Monday, Dec. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Gov. Mike Huckabee's surprise rise has put a big bull's eye on his back.

A TV ad from the Club For Growth says, "Listen to Mike Huckabee, when he was Arkansas governor." It then shows video of Huckabee saying, "There's a lot of support for a tax at the wholesale level for tobacco."

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have recruited Arkansas state legislators to slam his record on taxes.

"Can I tell you what we used to call him in the legislature?" one of them told CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. "We used to call him our pro-life, pro-gun liberal."

In his 10 years as governor, Huckabee raised the sales tax, the gas tax, the cigarette tax and a tax on nursing home care.

Supporters say Huckabee helped move their state into the 21st century, and that those tax revenues went to fix roads and schools that were among the worst in the nation.

He's also being attacked on immigration. Opponents say the 52-year-old Baptist minister has done a 180.

An ad from opponent Mitt Romney says, "Mike Huckabee supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants."

Until this year he supported the president's plan to fine, rather than deport, many illegal aliens. Harsher plans, he said, were "driven by racism or nativism."

But now, he has a tough new plan of his own, calling for a fence across the border. A new campaign ad calls for "no to amnesty" not once, but twice.

And then there are the ethics questions. The expensive gifts he accepted while in office, the five fines for ethics violations, the wedding registries set up in the first couple's name when they left the governor's mansion.

"Many Arkansans do seem to share a conventional wisdom that maybe the governor had an overdeveloped sense of entitlement," said Janine Harris of the University of Arkansas political science department.

Huckabee says "giftgate" is old news and overblown. "It's Arkansas politics," he said. "Welcome to my world."

Huckabee has a new campaign chairman today. It's a familiar name -- Ed Rollins, who led that landslide victory by Ronald Reagan back in 1984.