Continued from page 1

His support of a proposal that rewards clean-energy companies and charges other companies for their pollution, and support for Common Core academic standards split from GOP orthodoxy. When he was governor, he gave clemency to a man who later killed four police offers, as well as a convicted rapist who later was convicted of another rape and a murder.

“Some of the challenges he had in 2008 will still be a challenge,” said Mike Biundo, a Republican strategist who ran Rick Santorum’s scrappy presidential bid in 2012.

That’s not to say his hurdles are disqualifying. “There’s no perfect candidate out there,” Biundo said.

Some Republican quarters remain unlikely to warm to Huckabee. The anti-tax Club for Growth, for instance, spent $750,000 to dog Huckabee’s 2008 campaign and seems poised to hammer him again.

To them, Huckabee appealed for party unity and urged them to drop the slur “RINO”: “Republican In Name Only.”

“Let’s stop calling each other somehow less-Republican than someone else,” he said.

He warned that the Holocaust began with such attitudes of superiority toward the old, sick and Jewish residents.

“You realize that the only way you can end up there is when you start with the idea that people just aren’t as valuable as you are,” said Huckabee, who will visit the Auschwitz concentration camp next week to mark the anniversary of its liberation.

Such close scrutiny for Huckabee stands in stark contrast from the early days of his unsuccessful 2008 run.

This time “the spotlight will be a little brighter,” said Chuck Laudner, a veteran conservative activist in Iowa.

Huckabee’s 2008 campaign left him broke - he mortgaged his house and spent about $100,000 of his own money so his campaign could stay afloat - so he set out to make money. After failing to derail Sen. John McCain’s nomination, Huckabee hit the speaking circuit and published five books - two on policy and politics, three on Christmas. He snagged a weekly program on Fox News Channel and a now-defunct three-hour daily radio program. He built a waterfront home in Florida and, for the first time in his life, had built up personal wealth.

That life would be hard for the former evangelical pastor to abandon for the grueling pace of another national campaign. If he were to run, he would presumably have to give up his lucrative Fox contract.


Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: