Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Cathy Bailey rally GOP faithful, talk future ambitions

10/25/2014 10:49 PM

Kentucky has become the epicenter for midterm elections, with Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell vying for a possible ascension to the Senate’s majority leader and the GOP within striking distance of controlling the state House for the first time since 1921, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said during a Turn Kentucky Red rally Saturday.

National Democrats bore the brunt of Huckabee’s criticism as he told a crowd of more than 250 in a hangar at Bowman Field. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and current Senate majority leader, “has created what has been nothing less than the roach motel for legislation,” the Fox News commentator said.

“Three hundred and sixty pieces of legislation have been passed by the House of Representatives, sent to the Senate, and they have not left his desk,” Huckabee said. “I want you to think about the fact that the biggest fire hazard in all of Washington, D.C., is in Harry Reid’s desk where that paper has piled up because he is afraid to put those bills on the floor of the Senate and make the senators do what they were elected by their states to do, and that’s deliberate, debate and decide.

“Instead he’s decided that he will be the only person making a decision, and the decision that he has made is to hold America back.”

With the midterm elections 10 days away, Huckabee stumped for McConnell, who did not attend and was represented by his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and state Republican candidates. The rally, hosted by the federal political action committee Kentucky Rise, served as a get-out-the-vote effort, with Huckabee urging attendees to ensure at least 10 friends, neighbors or relatives hit the polls Nov. 4 “and vote right.”

“If they’re not going to vote right, leave them at home,” Huckabee said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I hear people sometimes will say, ‘No, it doesn’t matter how you vote as long as you vote.’ Well, I’m going to just break the news to you. It really does matter how you vote, so if they’re not going to vote for Mitch McConnell and for House Republicans, then just tell them to stay home, the election’s been moved to December.”

“But if they’re going to vote for their future and Kentucky’s future, please don’t let them say it doesn’t matter ‘cause it does matter, and the reason we are in the mess we’re in is because way too many people sat at home when they should’ve stood up, spoken up and voted on the right people.”

Republicans need to net nine seats in the midterm elections to assume control of the House, but Huckabee and others sound bullish about the party’s chances.

In an interview with Pure Politics before the rally, Huckabee called a potential GOP takeover in the House “a significant shift of power and shift of policy.” Kentucky would follow other southern states in creating a business atmosphere that promotes job creation, he said.

“People are so unhappy about what they’ve seen from the Democratic government that is focusing upon a lot of policies that are job killing, and the people that have hurt the most are the people in the middle class or the people struggling to get to the middle class,” he said. “Obama’s economy’s been great for the people at the 1 percent level, but it has not been very good for the rest of the country’s hard-working people.”

Kentucky Rise PAC, founded by Cathy Bailey in February, has raised more than $100,000 and contributed $35,000 to GOP House candidates and $2,500 to the House Republican Caucus Campaign Committee, federal campaign records show.

Bailey, in an interview after the rally, said her group will distribute funds to candidates and allow them to decide how to spend that money in the election cycle’s waning days, “whether its door knockers or yard signs or get out of the vote or robocalls or whatever they need to do.”

“I think we’ve got great candidates out there that’ve been working really, really hard, and I think the efforts are going to really pay off on Nov. 4,” she told Pure Politics.

Future prospects on hold for midterms

Both Huckabee and Bailey have been mentioned as potential candidates for higher office, but they said they’re withholding decisions for similar reasons.

Huckabee is mulling a presidential bid in 2016 after falling short in the 2008 Republican primary. He said his focus remains on helping the GOP win back control of the U.S. Senate this midterm cycle. Thus far, he’s campaigned in competitive states like Iowa, Georgia and South Dakota for Republican candidates.

“I’ve not ruled anything out,” he told Pure Politics. “I’ve been very honest and up front about it, but I’m not being disingenuous when I tell you that right now my real focus is on making sure that Republicans win in 2014.”

Bailey, a former U.S. ambassador to Latvia, has been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for governor in 2015. Like Huckabee, she’s keeping her attention on this year’s elections before throwing her name in the gubernatorial hat.

“Am I looking at this race for 2015 very carefully? Absolutely,” she said, noting she has not begun vetting potential running mates. “I’m taking it very, very seriously, but right now we’ve got a lot of momentum. We’ve got 10 days left. We’ve got to get behind our candidates and win in November.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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