Skip to comments.Huckabee's wife's weekend in Vegas raises eyebrows
Posted on 02/21/2008 11:53:39 AM PST by Shermy
What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas -- especially if you're the wife of presidential candidate. Just ask Janet Huckabee, who attended a middleweight prize fight this last weekend in Vegas -- where she stayed at the Hooters Casino Hotel.
That eye-opening combination -- a title bout in Sin City, which celebrates gambling, drinking and all things wild, along with a hospitality chain favoring buxom waitresses in low-cut garb -- could potentially shock the armies of evangelical conservative Christians who have made her husband, the former governor of Arkansas, the only remaining GOP opponent to party front-runner John McCain.
But Huckabee, whose husband is also a former Baptist minister, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that her recent brief excursion to root for boxer Jermain Taylor, a longtime friend and fellow Arkansan -- and her stay at a hotel that she said wasn't exactly her first choice -- was supposed to be a rare respite from the often-brutal presidential campaign trail.
"It's a grueling schedule. ... I had been in Wisconsin and flew to Michigan, and Friday and Saturday I spoke 14 times before the fight," said Huckabee, who called a Chronicle reporter while traveling with her husband in Dallas in response to questions about the trip. "There's little time for anything other than campaigning."
Janet Huckabee has made no secret of the family's support for Taylor, the middleweight boxing champ known as the "pride of Arkansas," who had a title bout against Kelly Pavlik in Vegas over the weekend.
But Huckabee said she never planned on staying at Hooters for the hot-ticket match, which also drew such celebrities as Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy and Sylvester Stallone.
"I had a room at the MGM Grand," she said, but canceled it when she believed she wouldn't be able to make the fight. Plans changed, and "a friend had two rooms. ... It was the only thing, quite frankly, that was available because the fights were in town."
In a highly charged 2008 presidential campaign, some political observers say Janet Huckabee's news-making extracurricular activities are just the latest in a string of events that dramatize, as GOP strategist Karen Hanretty puts it, that "the larger story line in this campaign is candidate's spouses as celebrities -- whether it's Jerri Thompson, Elizabeth Edwards, Cindy McCain or Michelle Obama."
"This is the first election where we've seen the spouse as a celebrity ... because for good or ill, spouses are a reflection of the candidate," Hanretty said.
Hanretty, a past spokeswoman for the campaign of former GOP candidate Fred Thompson, said that in Janet Huckabee's case, the Hooters stay may be problematic with conservative Christian voters who support her husband in droves -- but so may the perceived political signal being sent by the couple.
The week before GOP primaries in Wisconsin and Washington, "he's in the Cayman Islands, giving a speech -- and she's at a pro boxing match in Vegas?" said a flabbergasted Hanretty. "It demonstrates that Mike and Janet aren't serious about moving into the White House. ... This is not a couple serious about leading the nation."
But Huckabee -- who supporters say often provides a feisty and refreshingly human contrast to other more scripted candidate wives -- hasn't been the only political spouse to take her turn in spotlight recently.
...Don Solem, a longtime San Francisco Democratic political consultant, says political spouses are being more closely watched and reported on because "they reinforce character."
"That's their No. 1 role, to say 'X' has family values, he sees a brighter future, he has character with a capital C," he said. "Aside from being interesting or articulate, ... that's their job."'
...Still, the problem is that even trivial mistakes, like that of Janet Huckabee, can get people talking. "You go: 'What were they thinking?' It is what makes gossip and what makes afternoon and evening TV work," he said. "But I don't think it means a vote in a million."
Indeed, Janet Huckabee -- who happily hasn't stuck to the frozen-smile spouse's script -- said this week that the attention given to her personal statements and activities can sometimes seem "ridiculous." But she also said that reporters who ask questions about presidential candidates and their spouses doing are "not out of line at all. That's part of it, and anybody who goes into it knows that."
She does bristle, however, at the suggestion that Team Huckabee's noncampaign activities suggest they aren't serious about taking the White House.
"It's totally opposite," she said. Her husband, giving a speech in Grand Cayman, "kept his word" to a commitment he had made long before. "He's the only candidate that's not paid by the taxpayers; everybody else is living off the taxpayers right now," she said.
And she said that voters can consider stories about more personal issues, but they should know that "we have sacrificed a whole lot to do this. I have taken a leave of absence from my job. ... We're out there giving it at least as much as anybody else running."
She also firmly says she doesn't regret her friendship with folks like Jermain Taylor and his wife, Erica, who are "good friends -- and I try to support my friends in any way I can."
And her presence at a prize fight was more than that, she said: because Arkansas lacks a professional basketball and football team, state residents see Taylor as "the pro team," she said.
"I was the first lady for 10 1/2 years, and I supported him the whole time. ... He appreciated it very much that I came."
Indeed, the candidate's wife was seen on YouTube last week sporting a "Team Huckabee for Team Taylor" T-shirt and huge red boxing gloves rooting for the young boxer "on behalf of all Arkansas." The video can be seen at fightbeat.com/videos.php?id113.
Huckabee's effort to cheer Taylor apparently didn't bring him much luck this time around; the boxer lost the weekend fight by unanimous decision.
But Huckabee suggests that, when it comes to the campaign trail -- and the often harsh spotlight on candidates and their spouses -- maybe the boxing ring isn't so different anyway.
"Something my husband always says," she said, "is that it's not the dog in the fight -- but the fight in the dog."
I’m a Vegas resident, I used to see Show Girls of Magic at that hotel before it became Hooters. Maybe I should stop in and preach to the sinners.
Come and listen to a story about a man named Huck
A poor country preacher, barely made a decent buck,
Then one day a thought popped in his head
Chicken factories with illegal labor
is the way to make to make some bread
Serious coin. Patronage bucks.
Well the first thing you know ol Huck’s a guv’ner,
Kinfolk said Huck take a break away from there
Said Cayman Island is the place you ought to be
So they loaded up the trunk and took the money.
Unmarked bills that is. Campaign funds? Breaking rules?
Or maybe we misread this man. Maybe he’s just a wide eyed fella from Arkansas who is relishing the spotlight. He probably asked and found out they could take the campaign jet somewhere for a couple days and he asked Cayman Island and his handlers said yes and he said Yea Doggies, let’s git r done!
Perhaps he’s keeping a diary of this once in a lifetime experience. Dear Diary, today we ate something called Lob-ster. It was good, not as good as chicken, diary, but it was good. Til tomorrow. Huck.
Karen Hanretty has some explaining to do. Lately, she (a paid mouthpiece) has been on a propaganda campaign against Mike Huckabee. Get this: she argues that he's a "liberal" among whatever epithets, slams, and slurs she can muster.
Karen -- what is the job that put you on the map in this nation?
Let me give you a hint... it was in Cal-ee-forr-nia....
Yes! You were the campaign spokesperson for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Karen -- you Schwarzenegger-conservative, you -- who is paying you, for your Anti-Huckabee Campaign, now that Thompson and Romney are out?
And don't forget to flash that sweet lil' homecoming queen smile of yours, as you lay all that out.
The real hicks are the geography bigots.
Not really. She compromised being a perfectly good sinner by becoming a Mormon.
I feel like standing up and applauding your post. I am not from Arkansas but I am from the south and I get tired of all the stereotypical comments about the southern people , too. I could understand the comments if they came from the left but when they come from people who are supposed to be our friends, it hurts.
But you can disagree with Huckabees politics without resorting to insulting the people of Arkansas.
Oh, good grief!
Wasn’t that a middleweight title defense? Wish I was there!
Not being treated as rumor in the MSM.
Again, if he were an opportunist he would play it up.
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