Mike Huckabee may be a Baptist preacher and former Arkansas governor struggling to find a foothold with delegates and fundraising, but he took to the stage at Texas A&M in rock star style.
Walking on stage with a gray suit and red and blue tie, Huckabee strapped on a his bass guitar and played with a dimpled grin and a swagger to match the rhythm before speaking at a campaign rally for his Republican presidential campaign Friday in Rudder Theater.
His visit comes after a string of comedic television appearances, including "Saturday Night Live" and "The Colbert Report, in the hope of proving his campaign is still alive. And he brought the same lines to Texas, saying the vote in the Texas primary on Tuesday is what his campaign depends upon.
He began by playing a few songs with a band from Huntsville before introducing the man who he said, in jest, would be his secretary of defense and homeland security: Chuck Norris.
"He has the youth to lead this country, the experience to lead this country and the vision to lead the country," said Norris, the action movie star turned cult hero who has appeared in multiple ads and campaigned for Huckabee.
Norris said he was preparing to leave for vacation on Wednesday, adding, "I'll leave with a smile on my face when Mike wins the state of Texas."
But once Norris took a seat on the side of the stage and Huckabee took back the microphone, the tone of the rally changed as he tried to sell his message of bringing conservatism - fiscally and socially - to the White House.
"The purpose of government is not to fix us," he said. "It is the purpose of us to fix government."
In a thinly veiled counter to Republican frontrunner, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Huckabee attempted to portray himself as the conservative candidate in the Republican presidential race. He presented his plans for the presidency, which centered on limiting the size and reach of the federal government. "Every time we pass new laws, it's an indictment of the character of our nation," Huckabee said.
His main focus in the speech was taxes. He said he would be the president who would close the Internal Revenue Service, ending what he considered convoluted and unnecessary tax codes. Instead, he would implement a "fair tax" system, which taxed on consumption, not production, Huckabee said. The system he proposed would abolish income and payroll taxes and be replaced with a national sales tax.
"We have a tax system that absolutely strangles the life out of those trying to create jobs in this country," he said in his reasoning for restructuring the tax system.
Opponents have argued, though, that the fair tax would cause the progressive sales tax rates to reach as high as 30 percent and would not make the tax system less complicated, as its proponents claim.
In a race of collecting delegates for the nomination, Huckabee's chances are limited. In the Republican Party, 1,191 delegates are needed to win the nomination; McCain, the frontrunner, has 845 delegates to Huckabee's 205. Polls show that Huckabee's support among the electorate is significantly smaller than McCain's. McCain has 54 percent with 36 percent for Huckabee, according to the most recent Reuters/C-Span/Zogby poll of Texas Republican voters.
But, Huckabee said, the race for the Republican nomination is not yet finished. "Excuse me," he said, "no one has 1,191 delegates yet."
"We don't have a nominee yet, and until we have a nominee we'll keep fighting," Huckabee added.
Because of his experience as a chief executive - the only with such experience in the race, he pointed out - he has the background, Huckabee said, that Texas would want in its president. He added he knows the power that Reublican voters in the state have in the primary election.
"It's not over till Texas says it's over," Huckabee said. "Your choice, your voice, your vote has an impact."
© 2008 The Battalion via U-WIRE