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Huckabee Makes a Splash in S.C.

Seeking to build credibility as a presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) today announced that Iris and Mike Campbell -- the wife and son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell (R) -- will take a lead role in his South Carolina campaign.

Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee addresses a gathering during a stop Monday in Columbia, S.C. Mike Campbell, center, and his mother, Iris Campbell, will be supporting Huckabee's campaign for the GOP nomination. (AP)

Huckabee referred to the Campbell name as the "gold standard" in Palmetto State politics during a conference call this morning from Columbia, S.C. "They are people who understand the values of the south and the values of America."

Campbell served in Congress from 1978 to 1986 and then went on to spend eight years as governor from 1986 to 1994. Campbell passed away from a heart attack in 2005.

Iris Campbell will be the honorary chairwoman of Huckabee's South Carolina campaign, while Mike Campbell, the son of the legendary governor and an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006, will head up the day-to-day efforts in the state.

Tying himself to the legacy of Carroll Campbell, a widely revered figure in both state and national politics, is a sound strategy for Huckabee. But he still has considerable work to do to join the first tier of candidates in the state. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) already has inked a majority of the key financial players in the state and also has considerable support among state legislators. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.), too, has devoted considerable time and resources in the state and has recruited the consulting team that helped George W. Bush defeat McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary.

For Huckabee to catch fire in South Carolina (and in the Republican primary race more generally), he must convince voters that he is not only the most reliable conservative in the field but also has a real chance of winning the nomination.

In announcing the support of the Campbells, Huckabee referenced their "true conservative" credentials, adding that he was a "kindred spirit."

Huckabee's background as a Baptist minister and his demonstrated social conservatism should help him make the "I'm the true conservative" argument. Over the next few months we'll see whether he can combine that with a pragmatic pitch to early state voters about his viability not just in the primaries, but in the main attraction -- the 2008 general election.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 12, 2007; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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