by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee's book tour/presidential exploratory travels included a chat with E.J. Dionne, liberal columnist for the Washington Post, who found in the former governor a potential comer among the Republican candidates.
Mike Huckabee, who just stepped down as Arkansas' governor, is the brightest star among Republican presidential dark horses.
It's not just because he, like a certain other Arkansan, has ties to a town called Hope, nor because he lost 105 pounds and has written a popular diet book. And it's not only because he is mastering a conservative form of triangulation blending religious conservatism with policy pragmatism.
Huckabee, if he chooses to run for president in 2008, has another asset: while front-runners John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have placed large bets on the success of President Bush's Iraq policy, Huckabee has maintained what you might call loyal distance.This is what Huckabee said in an interview here last week when I asked him about the surge: "The honest answer for me is that I'm not subjected to the same piles of military and diplomatic information and intelligence that he has, and I'm going to have to trust that the advice that he's based his decision on as commander in chief is good. I don't honestly know. I hope it's right. I have to hope that, because there are going to be people from my state that are going to be asked to go and make it right.'' Dionne also commented about "the Arkansas Times, a progressive paper that will be must-reading if Huckabee runs," and quoted from our Sept. 22, 2005 cover story about Huckabee's potential presidential bid.