(Daniel Acker / Bloomberg )
TAMPA, Fla. — Mike Huckabee, a one-time bitter rival of Mitt Romney who once questioned his Mormon faith, gave a glowing endorsement of the GOP presidential nominee on Wednesday, saying that his loyalty and experience in business, government and the Olympics make him the ideal person to right the nation’s economic straits.
“Let me say to you tonight, I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country,” Huckabee told thousands gathered here for the Republican National Convention.
Huckabee and Romney unsuccessfully fought for the 2008 GOP nomination. Huckabee, an evangelical minister, drew condemnation when, during an interview with The New York Times shortly before the Iowa caucuses, he said he didn’t consider Romney’s Mormonism a cult, but asked, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Romney immediately labeled it a smear, and Huckabee apologized. But it was a statement that played to the evangelical Iowa voters who were already skeptical of Romney’s faith and who delivered a surprise win for Huckabee over the far better-funded Romney in Iowa, the beginning of the end to his 2008 bid.
On Wednesday, Huckabee addressed the matter directly.
“I want to clear the air about something that has been said. People wonder whether guys like me, an evangelical, would only support a fellow evangelical,” Huckabee said. “Well, my friends, I want to tell you something. Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama and he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb, even beyond the womb, and he tells people of faith that they have to bend their knee to the God of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls healthcare. Friends, I know we can do better.”
Religion was not the only division between Huckabee and Romney. Their disdain for each other was palpable. Romney accused Huckabee of being soft on the death penalty and drug use, Huckabee said Romney was not a true conservative, made fun of him for eating fried chicken without the skin and questioned his hunting ability.
At the convention, Huckabee said they were brought together by their mutual opposition to President Obama.
“Let me say to those who question how once-rivals can be now united: It’s quite simple. We have Barack Obama to thank,” he said. “… no small differences among us in our party approximate the vast differences between the liberty-limiting, radical left-wing, anti-business, reckless-spending, tax-hiking party of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi versus an energized America who knows we can do better.”