Image: Huckabee
Charlie Neibergall  /  AP
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee sits in a booth as he waits to speak during an Aug. 29 meet-and-greet in Pella, Iowa. 
updated 9/2/2007 11:20:13 PM ET 2007-09-03T03:20:13

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Sunday he would make a strong Republican opponent to Democratic front-runner and former Arkansas first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a race for the presidency.

Huckabee said his nomination would set up a sharp contrast between the two and energize voters toward the Republican ticket. Conservatives would be wrong to think that someone more like Clinton could draw more votes and defeat her, he said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

“Quite frankly, Americans are going to look at a contest where there’s contrast. That’s what I bring to the race, someone who can contrast in terms of philosophy and record, but also who’s going to be able to challenge her on key fundamental issues like education and health care,” Huckabee said.

In January, he completed more than 10 years as governor, and hails from the same Arkansas town of Hope as former President Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton, now a U.S. senator from New York, was first lady of Arkansas before her husband became president in 1993.

“Hillary is a strong, strong candidate, much stronger than a lot of Republicans want to accept,” Huckabee said. “But the reality is that if we put someone up whose views on some of the issues that rally our base don’t rally our base, then we’re going to be in big trouble.”

Along those lines, he also suggested he could match Republican Fred Thompson’s image as a mainstream conservative who could win votes. Thompson has done better in polls than Huckabee even though the former U.S. senator from Tennessee has not yet announced his candidacy.

The former governor said Thompson’s delay may partly be due to Huckabee’s profile.

“I think that’s one of the reasons that maybe he’s delayed,” Huckabee said. “He’s looked at the fact that if he’s looking for a consistent conservative, that would be Mike Huckabee.”

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