WASHINGTON — Mike Huckabee, until recently the governor of Arkansas, may be most famous for losing 100 pounds and crusading against obesity in America.
Now he's going after the big guys in a different way. He wants to take out John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, and Mitt Romney – the top three Republican challengers for their party's presidential nomination in 2008, polls show. He knows it's a long shot, especially when money and celebrity are the early drivers in the campaign. But in a race that Mr. Huckabee likens to a marathon, he sees kitchen-table issues – at the heart of any governor's tenure – growing in importance.
"If it's going to be only about money raised, then I suggest that we just put the whole thing on eBay, put it out for bid, and come November, whoever is still at the high bid when the clock ticks off, they win," Huckabee told reporters at a Monitor breakfast Tuesday. "I don't think ... people are going to allow that to happen."
Four of the last five US presidents were governors first. They balance budgets and solve problems, in healthcare, transportation, education, he says. But what about the war? Huckabee refers to himself as having been commander in chief of a state where 80 percent of its National Guard have been deployed overseas.
"When Ronald Reagan was elected, ... the rub was that he had been an actor and a governor, so what possible skills could he bring to the task?" Huckabee says.
Still, Huckabee knows he must rise in the pack by summer's end. "If by ... September I'm still considered second or third tier, after the Iowa straw poll, then ... I've got a problem," says the former Baptist minister, who formed a presidential exploratory committee last week. He seeks to be the second president from Hope, Ark., after Bill Clinton.
An evangelical Christian, Huckabee hopes his religiosity will win GOP voters who may have qualms about Senator McCain, who is not overtly religious; former Mayor Giuliani, who is liberal on social issues; and Mr. Romney, whose Mormon faith makes some Republicans uneasy.