Huckabee's religious convictions have made him
popular with many US voters [GALLO/GETTY]

Mike Huckabee, governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007 and a Baptist minister, has steadily gathered support as a presidential candidate, despite being less well known and funded than his Republican colleagues.

Huckabee has made good use of his grassroots support and word of mouth among America's religious conservatives, promoting himself as a "Christian leader".

His love of rock music and his sense of humour have also become hallmarks of his campaign.

One television advertisement for his election bid saw him promise to use his friend Chuck Norris, the legendary US martial arts strongman, to police the US-Mexico border.

Huckabee talks tough on immigration, though he encourages social services for illegal immigrants, and emphasises the importance of traditional marriage and the family.

However, some of his decisions as governor have come under scrutiny.

Under Huckabee, more people were executed than under any other Arkansas governor, however his decision to pardon a rapist who later went on to kill a woman has also been criticised.

Religious background

Born in 1955, Huckabee spent two decades as an evangelical minister in a number of churches. 

He also worked for James Robinson, a TV evangelist, dropping out of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas to do so.

He married his wife Janet while still at university and they have three children. His wife was diagnosed with cancer of the spine shortly after their marriage.

He is also vocally anti-abortion, but his belief in the "sanctity of life" does not extend to the death penalty.

His religious convictions have proved popular with many US voters, but have prompted criticism from some secular groups, as he defends the Bible's creation story over the Darwinian natural selection.

On foreign policy, Huckabee has said he wants to increase defence spending and believes "we are currently engaged in a world war".

On his website, Huckabee says: "Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believe in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god."

'Playing to win'

On Iraq, he says he is "playing to win" and warns: "Withdrawal would have serious strategic consequences for us and horrific humanitarian consequences for the Iraqis." He supports the so-called troop "surge".

Huckabee is hawkish on many foreign
policy issues [EPA]
For Huckabee, the Democrats are "defeatists" who "delusionally deny that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror".

"Al-Qaeda is a major ally of the Sunni insurgents in their fight against the Shiite majority [in Iraq]," his website states, adding that al-Qaeda are fighting to build bases in Iraq.

"They need territory, a place to plot their evil and train their murderers for another September 11."

As well as continuing the fight in Iraq, Huckabee has expressed concern that al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters are gathering in the tribal areas on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

He has been hawkish towards Pakistan, singling out Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president.

"We have to get tough with Musharraf and re-calibrate the carrots and sticks we use with him," he writes on his website. 

"Pakistan is the fifth largest recipient of American aid," he says. "And right now we're not getting real good value."

Regional relations

But beyond taking a tougher line with US aid recipients, Huckabee is unclear on his policies on wider issues in the Middle East.

He makes little reference to Hamas or the Israel-Palestinian conflict and skirts the topic of US relations with Iran, suggesting it could be tackled by playing on regional relationships.

"We are worried about the Iranians extending their sphere of influence west, but so are the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, who dislike the Iranians not just because they are Shiites, but because they are Persians."

At the same time, Huckabee says on foreign policy he wants "to be able to treat Saudi Arabia the same way I treat Sweden".

Like other candidates, Huckabee wants the US to become energy independent.

Huckabee has seen growing support within the Republican ranks, but readers of his book From Hope to Higher Ground, in which he lays out many of his beliefs and policies, have suggested he could also play well to those of a more Democratic persuasion.

Source: Al Jazeera