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Rising in Iowa Polls, Huckabee Now In Crosshairs


Huckabee takes a factory tour in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP).

Mike Huckabee is discovering the flip side of a surge.

Now that he's moved up to second place in Iowa, according to two recent polls, the former Arkansas governor is learning what it's like to be asked about something other than his guitar playing (which is quite good).

On Fox News Wednesday, he was asked about a bill he supported as governor that would have granted tuition breaks to the children of illegal immigrants. He suggested that he had only wanted to give such children access to scholarships.

"What I supported was the idea that if a student had been in our Arkansas high schools and had done academically well to be able to compete for an academic challenged scholarship which was meritorious then that student should be able to have the same opportunity as anyone else," Huckabee said.

In fact, the initial bill he supported did have a scholarship provision. But that provision was later stripped out, and was not included in the legislation that Huckabee continued to push.

The bill read: "Any tuition rate that is granted to residents of Arkansas shall be granted on the same terms to all persons, regardless of immigration status, who have attended a secondary educational institution in Arkansas for at least three (3) years and who have either graduated from an Arkansas high school or received a general education diploma in the state."

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is still leading in Iowa, has decided that it's time to take the gloves off with regard to Huckabee, who is nipping at his heels. Campaigning in Iowa this week, the AP reported that Romney told reporters: "Giving a better deal to the children of illegal aliens than we give to US citizens from surrounding states is simply not fair and not right."

On Fox News, Huckabee responded with a dig at prior reports that Romney had employed groundskeepers who were illegal: "I guess Mitt Romney would rather keep people out of college so they can keep working on his lawn, since he had illegals there."

Now that Huckabee is a threat, he's also being targeted more aggressively for his positions on taxes.

An e-mail from the conservative Club for Growth Thursday had the subject line: "HUCKABEE FIBS AGAIN!" In the e-mail, the group, which has consistently bashed Huckabee, accused him of misleading voters about the reasons for tax hikes for transportation and schools.

Huckabee says that he raised taxes for roads only after a referendum. And he insists that the tax hike for schools was ordered by the state's supreme court to improve the state's educational system.

Club officials insist those are misleading explanations. They insist that the referendum Huckabee talks about came after the gas tax increase. And they say he is hiding behind the court decision inappropriately.

--Michael D. Shear

By Washington Post editors  |  November 15, 2007; 5:30 PM ET
 
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