(AP/Danny Johnston) (AP/Danny Johnston)
Huckabee
Huckabee

Huckabee and his wife Janet and grandchildren. (AP/Danny Johnston)

Governor Mike Huckabee, a staunch supporter of Israel and friend/honoree of United with Israel, will be running in the 2016 Republican race for US president.

Joining the already crowded field of Republican US presidential candidates, many of them ardently pro-Israel, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced Tuesday that he is running for president.

Huckabee was recently honored by United with Israel when he officially became UWI’s three-millionth member.

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister-turned-politician, is the third Republican to enter the race this week. Two political outsiders, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, an African-American conservative, launched their presidential campaigns on Monday.

Huckabee returned Tuesday to his hometown of Hope, Arkansas — the same small town where former President Bill Clinton was born — to make official what the local newspaper called “the worst-kept secret” in the state.

He told his supporters at a Hope rally: “It seems fitting that I would announce here that I am a candidate for president of the United States,” as this was the same place where, as head of the school student council, he first ran for office.

This time Huckabee hopes to expand on the support of evangelical Christians who helped him win eight states in the 2008 primary campaign, which he eventually lost to Senator John McCain.

US Senator Marco Rubio

US Senator Marco Rubio is among several competitors for the Republican leadership. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Political analysts consider him an underdog and see his candidacy as a long shot in a field that already includes several seasoned politicians, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are expected to launch their bids soon. The Republican race is a wide-open contest that could ultimately feature more than 20 major candidates.

Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and first lady, holds a commanding lead in the race for the Democratic nomination. Her only declared opponent so far is Vermont Jewish Senator Bernie Sanders.

Fiorina and Clinton are bidding to become the first female US president, while Cruz and Rubio, both Cuban-American, are vying to become the first Hispanic president.

In a strategy aimed at working-class cultural conservatives, Huckabee and his aides say his second run would pitch the candidate as an economic populist and foreign affairs hawk who holds deeply conservative views on social issues such as opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Huckabee, 59, also argues that he is the best Republican to take on Clinton. In a recent campaign video, Huckabee says that in his more than 10 years as governor, he took on Democrats in “Bill Clinton’s Arkansas” after candidate Bill Clinton won the election to the White House in 1992.

Huckabee was elected lieutenant governor, his first public office, months after Clinton left the governor’s mansion for Washington.

“I governed in a state that was the most lopsided and partisan in the country,” he told supporters. “No Republican governor had more Democrats and fewer Republicans. I challenged the deeply entrenched political machine that ran this state. It was tough sledding, but I learned how to govern and how to lead.”

A Staunch Israel Supporter

Mike Huckabee United with Israel

UWI Founder Michael Gerbitz (L) and Executive Director David Zeit at a recent event in Jerusalem with Mike Huckabee (UWI), who became the 3-millionth member of United with Israel.

Huckabee is a well-known and fierce supporter of Israel.

On a visit to Israel in February, Huckabee was honored at an event in Jerusalem celebrating United with Israel’s achievements. “There is a distinct difference between good and evil – and Israel is good,” he stated at the event in Jerusalem, referring to Israel’s fight against Islamic terror.

Addressing Huckabee, Michael Gerbitz, the founder of United with Israel, said: “I cannot thank you enough not just for coming tonight, but for coming to Israel for the last 43 years and for being the best friend that Israel can have.”

Huckabee responded that he was “happy, proud and deeply grateful that you allow me to stand with you, United with Israel.”

By: AP and United with Israel Staff