Huckabee exaggerates his victory over the 'Clinton Machine' | Arkansas Blog

Huckabee exaggerates his victory over the 'Clinton Machine'

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Mike Huckabee,
yesterday's presidential candidate striving for current relevance, got a bit of attention to his 2016 candidacy over the weekend by styling himself as the one candidate with a proven record against the Clintons.

In various formats, he's touted his victory over the "Clinton political machine" in every race he ran in Arkansas.

Well...... Huckabee exaggerates. Again. He's never run against a Clinton or against any candidate remotely able to summon "machine-style" support.

Thanks to Bill Clinton's move to the White House in 1993, Huckabee — a bad loser against Sen. Dale Bumpers in 1992 — got a crack at the lieutenant governor's seat vacated when Jim Guy Tucker became governor. He eked out a 51-49 win over Democrat Nate Coulter, who'd managed Bumpers' senatorial campaign. It was THE critical race in Huckabee's career and put him in place to become governor when Tucker had legal troubles.

Said Huckabee in an interview Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos:

Every time I ever ran for public office in Arkansas — every time — I ran against the Bill Clinton political machine that had been developed for 10 to 15 years before I ended up winning office. Every race I had I ran against their machinery,  I ran against their money and frankly both Bill and Hillary Clinton came back and campaigned personally in the state for every opponent I ever had.

Not true. That first critical race against Coulter, neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton appeared in Arkansas to campaign for Coulter. They were otherwise occupied, along with key members of their "machine," in Washington. With each passing year, the Clintons were farther removed from Arkansas political matters, apart from brief visits to excite Democratic voters come election time.

Clinton — and the Democratic Party — certainly supported Charlie Cole Chaffin in her race against Huckabee for a full term as lieutenant governor and subsequent races supported Huckabee gubernatorial foes Bill Bristow and Jimmie Lou Fisher. I don't remember Hillary Clinton much in evidence on Bill Clinton's Arkansas political whistlestops, however.  

The Clinton "machine" can probably best be judged by the financial and leadership disarray the Democratic Party found itself in in 1991 with Clinton off running for president. You might say it was about as potent a machine as Huckabee himself built in 10 years in the governor's office, a period in which the Republican Party made small gains, but occasionally lost ground a in state and national elections.

Until lately, statewide elections in Arkansas have been about personalities, not parties.

Coattail effects are rare in Arkansas politics. Except the negative coattails that President Obama wears here. These are coattails that Huckabee and others in the GOP are already pulling out of the closet against Hillary Clinton's new candidacy.

Huckabee's victories owe plenty to his own merits as a campaigner, but his boasts about cracking the Clinton code are self-aggrandizing exaggeration.


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