- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mike Huckabee is trying to carve out space for a populist within the 2016 GOP presidential field, signing his own “Pledge to the People” Thursday to defend the Constitution and pursue an economic agenda that would benefit all Americans, including those at the bottom rungs.

The pledge calls for abolishing the IRS and revamping the tax system into a national sales tax. He also has vowed to prevent Social Security benefit cuts for anyone over the age of 14, staked out firm opposition to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and decried the fast-track trade powers and the pacific trade deal President Obama is seeking from Congress.

“I’m sick of America’s workers getting punched in the gut,” Mr. Huckabee said in an op-ed this week against the trade initiatives.

Amid stiff competition for the nomination, the former Arkansas governor and his camp sent a message they believe connects with working-class voters who feel left behind by power brokers in Washington and on Wall Street, and is a winning strategy for both the primary and the eventual general election.

Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, a conservative think tank, said that Mr. Huckabee‘s message could resonate with voters who are concerned that their economic well-being and religious liberty is under attack, and that the Republican party has become too consumed with wooing the well-heeled.

“I think Huckabee is smart to be focused on the idea that there is a connection between the economic frustration of people and the frustration of people regarding the rejection of their religious beliefs,” Mr. Cannon said. “Huckabee is looking in his own way to form a set set of policies that combine those two elements.”

Mr. Huckabee touched on that religious message Thursday, promising in his new pledge to defend the “sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception until the grave” and to push to defund Planned Parenthood, which has become a favorite target of religious conservatives.

“Today I signed a ‘Pledge to the People,’ to defend our Constitution and founding principles, and not just speak to Americans, but for them, so that every American can go from Hope to Higher Ground,” Mr. Huckabee said, repeating his campaign slogan, which brings together his Christian faith, his humble upbringing and his quest to become the voice for the common man in 2016.

Fox News released a national poll on Thursday that found Mr. Huckabee is running near the front of the pack in the nomination race, and is seen as the most ethical of the candidates lining up for the GOP nomination.

It also found that his net favorability is higher among those without college degrees and among those who made less than $50,000.

Those age 65 or older also saw him in a more positive light than younger generations.

The poll also found that 85 percent of respondents believed that political leaders are “more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right for the American people.

The populist mantle could prove powerful in a GOP primary, but it has had few takers in previous contests.

This time, there are several who could try to make claims, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, both of whom have said American workers’ wages should be considered when writing immigration policy.

But analysts have said to win the populist tag could require not just opposing expanded immigration, but also finding other areas to take stands against major business interests — and free trade deals are shaping up this year as the litmus test for that.

Mr. Santorum has embraced the fast-track trade powers President Obama is seeking, while Mr. Huckabee said he opposes them.

“I never have been and won’t be the favorite candidate of those in the ‘Washington to Wall Street’ corridor of power. I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people across America,” Mr. Huckabee said.

Alice Stewart, a Huckabee spokesperson, said the 2012 presidential election underscored the importance of fielding a Republican candidate that can connect with, and ultimately win over, ordinary Americans.

“In 2012, Mitt Romney had a good resume on the issues, but people didn’t like him so they didn’t vote for him. They didn’t think he understood what working Americans go through,” Ms. Stewart said. “Whereas people understand people that Gov. Huckabee knows what it is like to work hard and put food on the table and make ends meet.”

Mr. Huckabee‘s entire pledge is as follows:

Pledge to the People

I, Mike Huckabee, pledge allegiance to God, the Constitution, and the citizens of the United States:

- I will adhere to the Constitution of the United States.

- I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.

- I will advocate for a complete overhaul of our tax system. This means passing the FairTax and abolishing the IRS.

- I will support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

- I will now, and will for the duration of my presidency, promote and sign all measures leading to Obamacare’s defunding, deauthorization, and repeal.

- I will oppose amnesty and government benefits for illegal immigrants who violated our laws, repeal President Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders, and secure our borders.

- I will stand for the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception until the grave. Taking this unequivocal stand includes fighting to defund Planned Parenthood.

- I will stand for the Institution of Marriage and vigorously oppose any redefinition.

- I will defend our 2nd Amendment rights and oppose gun control legislation.

- I will fight for the United States military to be the most feared, respected, and capable fighting force the world has ever known. I will restore our military infrastructure after years of abuse and neglect.

- I will stand with our friend and ally Israel in our shared fight against Radical Islam.

- I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capability.

- I will end the national disgrace of failing to properly care for our veterans.

- I will protect Social Security and Medicare and never rob seniors of the benefits they were promised and forced to pay for.

- I will fight to kill Common Core and restore common sense. Education is a family function - not a federal function.

- I will support the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices. They must be committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench.

- I will fight for term limits for members of Congress and judges.

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