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Presidential Hopeful Huckabee Visits Dallas

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble KERA reporter: The newest hot Republican Presidential candidate hoped to pull in a quarter million dollars at pair of fundraisers here. Seemingly out of nowhere, Mike Huckabee has surged to the top of Iowa polls. With this new status comes more scrutiny of statements he made in 1992 when running for Senator of Arkansas. He wrote then that If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague. Today, Huckabee says he was being cautious, because it wasn't clear how AIDS was transmitted. And he's changed his mind.

Mike Huckabee, Republican Presidential Candidate: Obviously I don't believe we should isolate AIDS patients and I've said that. That's not a policy I would even entertain today.

Zeeble: Huckabee says times were different then. But top medical authorities, including the nation's Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, had been saying for years - since the mid 1980s - that AIDS could not be acquired through casual contact. Huckabee's also been criticized for granting criminals clemency. He gave more pardons than past Arkansas governors combined. He also favored a pardon for convicted rapist Wayne Dumond, and talked privately to parole board members about releasing him. Huckabee did not grant a pardon, but Dumond was freed by the parole board. He then killed someone else. Huckabee denies any connection, but parole board members say Huckabee urged the release. The candidate stands behind his record of pardons.

Huckabee: If I were thinking about it and said I'll make decisions based on some future office that I'm going to seek, I wouldn't do any of them. {No ones mad at you for turning any down. Whole lot of people are made at for signing one.} But if that were your son or daughter with a drug charge in college, for possession I have a feeling you would be one of those folks on my doorstep saying mr governor, please?

Zeeble: Huckabee says he's not soft on crime, adding there were 6 thousand more criminals in jail when he left office than before. He says these questions of his record are driven by his rise in the polls. Some attribute the surge to the Baptist minister's appeal to Evangelicals.

Huckabee: Clearly that's not the only thing going on. I hope Evangelicals support me. But I'm number one in Delaware, I don't recall that being an overwhelming Evangelical state.

Zeeble: And he's leading in Michigan, he says, because people are tired of business as usual, and of candidates who only talk of what's wrong with the other guy. Republican attorney Kelly Shackelford, an Evangelical who's sat on the National Party Platform committee, says Huckabee's a true compassionate conservative, unlike President Bush, who used that term as a campaign ploy.

Kelly Shackelford, attorney: With Huckabee, you've got 10 and a half years of being a governor, where you've seen that. I know of no Republican that's got 48 percent of the African American vote for instance. That's not because they were fooled but because they know who he is.

Zeeble: But SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jilson suggests Huckabee's Evangelical credentials do matter in attracting core Republican votes, and may have a lot to do with Huckabee passing Mormon Mitt Romney in the polls.

SMU's Cal Jilson: There's 20 percent of the American public not available to Romney as a Mormon running for president.

Zeeble: A national CNN survey just put Huckabee 2nd behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ahead of Mitt Romney. Bill Zeeble KERA news.