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Huck and the Gipper, Part II

January 14, 2008

A few weeks ago, as the presidential campaigns were heading into the home stretch in Iowa and yours truly was heading into a much-needed holiday hiatus, I published a column called "Huckabee Confounds Elites as Reagan Did." Since then, as the former Arkansas governor has catapulted to the top of the so-called first-tier candidates, additional comparisons to the 20th Century's greatest president have presented themselves.

The Gipper won two landslide presidential elections by connecting with the common man. Much has been written over the years about the Reagan coalition. It included military hawks, fiscal and social conservatives, and the so-called Reagan Democrats.

The Reagan Democrats were primarily blue-collar voters whose long-time allegiance to the Democratic Party was shaken by the economy of the inept President Jimmy Carter. These hard-working Americans lived their lives in a conservative manner, playing by the rules and paying their taxes. But that was not enough. Squeezed by 21 percent interest rates and double-digit inflation, they sought relief from the man who offered them hope - Ronald Reagan.

The knee-jerk reaction to Huckabee from elites on the right and the left is much the same as it was to Reagan. They dismiss him as a one-dimensional candidate whose approach to our complex problems is just too simplistic. But a closer look at the candidacy of both men reveals something much deeper.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan promised drastic tax relief. Upon taking office, he proceeded to eliminate five tax brackets, thereby cutting the 70 percent top marginal income tax rate in half. This helped begin the process of stimulating the economy.

Similarly, Mike Huckabee wants to make big changes in the tax code. In fact, he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, scrap the entire income tax system and replace it with a federal consumption tax known as the Fair Tax, thereby eliminating the three-trillion-dollar anchor we currently are dragging through our economy.

Reagan was determined to win the Cold War by rebuilding our military after years of deterioration. He succeeded in causing the Soviet Union to crumble trying to keep up with us.

Huckabee is calling for building an American military half again the size of that currently under arms. As a former governor, he has seen the danger of stretching our National Guard units to the breaking point, especially in this post-9/11 world.

The Gipper recognized the role of small business in our economy. Through his tax cuts and other fiscal policies, he opened up opportunities for entrepreneurs that had not existed in decades.

Mike Huckabee, alone among this year's Republican candidates, has addressed the plight of small business owners. He points out that most of the GOP field cannot see past the rosy macro-economic numbers reflected on Wall Street long enough to know that the average person is being squeezed by rising health care costs, skyrocketing energy prices and crushing taxes.

Huckabee says he believes that people want a president who reminds them of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off - a clear shot at multi-millionaire business tycoon Mitt Romney. He also says that Republicans had better pay attention to the phenomenon of Barack Obama. He warns that GOP candidates ignore Obama's message of change at their peril.

But change purely for the sake of change is pointless, and Obama's promises are little more than warmed-over socialism, similar to that of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the rest of the Democratic field. In fact, it's the same old collectivist claptrap the Dems have been preaching for the last forty years. As the Gipper used to say, it isn't that liberals don't know anything; it's just that they know so many things that just aren't so.

Mike Huckabee knows that absent a real message of conservative change, voters will vote for the counterfeit rather than the status quo, and that would be tragic for America.

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Copyright ©2008 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.