Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Huckabee, seeking Cuban American votes in Fla., switches stand and now supports Cuban embargo

When Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, the nation's seventh most rural state, he opposed the trade embargo of Cuba, as did many in agriculture and other industries. Now, as a surging candidate for president, he has changed his position -- in a transparent appeal to Cuban Americans in Florida, one of the biggest prizes in the contest for the Republican nomination. (Associated Press photo)

"Rather than seeing it as some huge change, I would call it, rather, the simple reality that I'm running for president of the United States, not for reelection as governor of Arkansas," he said yesterday in Miami, where state House Speaker Marco Rubio, a Cuban American, endorsed him. "I've got to look at this as an issue that touches the whole country."

"Huckabee's statement reflected one of the most dramatic reversals by a major presidential candidate on the issue that has defined U.S.-Cuba policy for nearly half a century," because he lobbied President Bush in 2002 to end the embargo, write Beth Reinhard and Laura Figueroa of The Miami Herald. "Huckabee's conversion also surprised the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, which represents the state's top agricultural industry. Cuba is one of the largest potential U.S. markets for rice in the world." (Read more)

Huckabee pleaded for his rice farmers in lobbying Bush, notes Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times. "It was a change of heart sure to please hard-liners among the Cuban exiles who could make up 10 percent or more of the electorate in Florida's crucial Jan. 29 Republican primary," Wallsten writes. "But it also reflected the latest move by a once-obscure candidate now grappling with how to transform a burst of momentum into a sustainable bid for the White House." (Read more)

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