Given the suddenly painful and prominent debate over race relations currently going on among Senators Clinton and Obama, and among Democratic leaders, it's worth noting that there's one Republican presidential candidate who has demonstrated an ability to win African-American votes: Mike Huckabee. Exit polls show Huckabee won 48 percent of the African-American vote when he ran for Governor in 1998, and though experts apparently agree that that figure is too high, there's no doubt he did better than most Republicans do:
The 1998 polling was presented in a book by Matthew Streb, now a professor at Northern Illinois University. Streb on Wednesday said he agreed the results may be incorrect. "I stand by the fact that Huckabee did well among African-Americans," Streb said. "Did he actually do 48 percent, which is what the exit polls show? That's questionable." Barth said it's more likely Huckabee gained 20 percent of the black vote in 1998, his first try for a full term against Democrat Bill Bristow... Stacy Williams, a Little Rock-based political consultant, said Huckabee could easily duplicate his statewide success on a national scale. "He breaks the traditional mold of the Republican in trying to persuade African-Americans to vote for him, and that's what he did in Arkansas," Williams said. "African-Americans are pretty much like anybody else; if you advertise them or target them and solicit their support, you're going to be successful..." "I do believe that the facts will bear out that Huckabee went beyond (Clinton) in employing key African-Americans on his staff and administration and also in appointing them to boards and commissions," Williams said.
If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, but alienates African-Americans in the process, Mike Huckabee could be an unwelcome opponent. His cultural conservatism and his populist message could be a winning combination for black voters who are unwilling to overlook her disparaging comments about Barack Obama and Marin Luther King. It might prove one more surprise in an electoral cycle full of them.
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