Heard on the Hill: Huck — Slim and CBS-Bound?

Posted September 2, 2008 at 7:26pm

Former Arkansas Gov. and folksy former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wowed the small crowd gathered by the Obesity Society in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday with his personal tales of weight-loss success and his prescription for fixing America’s battle of the bulge.

[IMGCAP(1)]Huck, looking fit and trim in a suit and cowboy boots, yukked it up with the moderator, “60 Minutes” co-host Leslie Stahl.

Huckabee shared his anti-obesity policy plans at length with the crowd, but afterward he dished with HOH about the topic we really wanted to discuss: How to stay slim on a junk-food-and-cocktail-laden convention diet. The Arkansas Republican, who lost 110 pounds through a strict diet-and-

exercise regime, advised staying away from those pastry buffets that seem to be at every breakfast event this week and eating lots of small meals throughout the day. And he gave us this bit of advice, which we and every other convention-goer seem to be ignoring: “Don’t drink your calories.”

And while he didn’t get the presidential or even vice presidential nod, Huckabee tipped his hand about a possible future career move. The guv asked members of the audience to raise their hand if they’d been employed by the same entity for 20 years or more (he was making a point about employer-provided health care) and when Stahl was one of the only people in the room with her hand in the air, he seemed impressed. “Obviously, CBS is a good gig,” Huckabee told the veteran newswoman. “I’ll give you my résumé.”

A Revered Rival. Forget Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). There’s apparently an even brighter new star of the Republican Party, and his name is … um, the Rev. Al Sharpton?

When Sharpton spoke at an event on Tuesday at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center, he received a shockingly warm welcome from the staunchly Republican crowd, with hundreds of convention attendees clad in Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gear asking the Rev. Al for photos and even giving the Democratic firebrand two standing ovations.

And as if things weren’t weird enough, Sharpton appeared with an unlikely friend, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The odd couple teamed up for “Time to Choose: Children or the Bureaucracy,” a joint effort by several educational groups. And the reverend spoke as if he were in front of political friends, delivering a prayer and then urging greater accountability in the nation’s school system.

Sharpton did admit that his appearance was an oddity, telling the audience that a staunchly liberal advocate had earlier berated him about attending an event at the Republican National Convention.

“I looked at him in the mirror,” Sharpton said, prompting laughter. “And said, ‘There must be some things that we can put our partisan and even ideological beliefs aside for, and that must be our children.”

Sharpton had to leave the event early to host his syndicated radio show. His farewell words indicated that while he played nice for the day, he isn’t likely to join the GOP’s ranks.

“If you want a fair and balanced view of your convention, I encourage you to listen,” he said of the program.

The Gay Old Party, Bigger Than You Think. Bloggers interested in outing closeted gay Republicans take note: You have on-the-record confirmation that there are gay GOP-ers serving in Congress — we just can’t say who they are yet. When former Rep. Jim Kolbe (Ariz.) began a brief address to members of the Log Cabin Republicans — the leading gay GOP group — on Tuesday in St. Paul, he referenced his status as the lone “out” gay Republican Member of Congress before he retired in 2006.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “There are others there [in Congress]. We just need to make it more comfortable for them” to come out of the closet.

Over at That Other Convention… Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) held his “Rally for the Republic” quasi-convention at the Target Center on Tuesday, with plenty of on-the-political-fringe fanfare for the 10,000 or so supporters in attendance.

But just before the program began, HOH spotted another right-wing presidential hopeful, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, standing in the lobby of the arena in a grass-roots attempt to lure disenfranchised Paul supporters to vote for him in November.

Surrounded by a couple of staffers hoisting “Barr for President” signs in the air, Barr posed for pictures with the Paul folks, many of whom seemed surprised (although excited) to find the former Republican Congressman from Georgia standing around in the lobby with the rowdy crowd.

Barr told HOH his campaign is receiving “tremendous support,” and that he thinks he can attract plenty of Paulistas, who remain upset by the size of the government but have nobody to vote for since Paul lost the Republican nomination.

And Barr isn’t impressed with what his political rivals are doing across town at the Xcel Energy Center, either. “It’s like watching Wheel of Fortune where everybody already knows the outcome,” he said.

Rage Against the GOP. Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello is hanging around the Twin Cities this week, but don’t think the former Democratic Hill staffer has changed his political stripes. The aide to former California Sen. Alan Cranston-turned- musician was spotted making a brief stop at the Friends of New Orleans-Roll Call party Monday night. But there’s an explanation for the outspoken liberal’s appearance in the GOP-laden town: Morello performed with rocker Steve Earle at a Labor Day concert sponsored by Service Employees International Union — not exactly a GOP-friendly group.

Oy! Some of HOH’s favorite bits of political swag floating around the Twin Cities are those classy blue suede yarmulkes apparently designed for the discriminating Jewish Republican. The head-coverings are emblazoned with the word “McCippah” (a cippah, or kippah, is another name for a yarmulke) and the phrase “John McCain is Zayer Shain” (translated: John McCain is great).

We spotted them on some conventioneers, and one generous convention-goer even offered one to the Rev. Al Sharpton (see above item) at an event he headlined. Want in on the new fashion trend? We found them at Vanitykippah.com, where you can also snag an “Obamica” (get it, rhymes with yarmulke?) that reads “My Bubby is Voting Obama.”

Louis Jacobson of CongressNow contributed to this report.

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