Iowa radio host Steve Deace, who supported recently-announced presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R) during his 2008 White House bid, expressed grave disappointment over the fact that the former Arkansas governor supports certain entitlement programs, which Huckabee outlined in his May 4 candidacy announcement. Deace's rejection of Huckabee comes in the wake of his praise and early support for one of Huckabee's challengers for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
During the May 6 episode of the Steve Deace Show, Deace played former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential candidacy announcement speech but frequently interrupted it so that he and his producer, Rebekah Maxwell, could offer critical commentary. Deace attacked Huckabee's positions on Medicare and Social Security, calling the programs “not safety nets” but “the basis for a permanent welfare state.” Deace also compared Huckabee to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saying his speech could have been delivered by Clinton “and gotten the same amount of applause.”
Huckabee's seemingly softer stance on social programs isn't a sign that he is reinventing himself as a populist, given his track record on taxes and other economic issues. Yet while Deace and Huckabee still agree on certain conservative ideological issues, such as the need to oppose marriage equality and speak out against Islam, Deace was adamant on his show that much of Huckabee's 2016 announcement speech failed to connect with the GOP's primary audience because it didn't embrace the core principals of conservatism, which Deace identified as cutting taxes, fighting terrorism, and opposing abortion and gay marriage.
Deace, who wields heavy influence among Iowa's conservative Christians and has been called one of the “most influential Republicans you've never heard of” by Bloomberg Politics, supported Huckabee in his 2008 bid for the presidency. As ABC News reported, during the 2008 primary season, “Deace gave Huckabee plenty of valuable air time,” and “urged his supporters to get tickets and rides to the influential straw poll in Ames.” Deace's vocal support of Huckabee is cited as a major reason why Huckbee beat Mitt Romney (R) in the Iowa Caucus that year.
This time around, Deace is criticizing Huckabee and offering frequent support and praise for the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz. In addition, as the Des Moines Register reported, “Deace has served as an informal, unpaid consultant” to Cruz, which gives the Iowa-based radio host an even bigger platform from which to support and advocate for the Texas senator.