Potential presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee walked back his support Thursday for Sen. Lindsey Graham, saying that a video he made last month praising the South Carolina Republican was not actually an endorsement for his re-election campaign.
Huckabee narrated and appeared in a television ad last month from the South Carolina Conservative Action Alliance, touting Lindsey Graham’s foreign policy chops. In the ad, Huckabee compares Graham’s leadership in combatting “radical Islam” to former President Ronald Reagan’s leadership in winning the Cold War.
“There’s a leader in South Carolina who knows what it takes to win: Sen. Lindsey Graham,” Huckabee says, praising his push for answers on Benghazi, and his support of Israel and a “strong national defense.”
“Call Lindsey Graham and thank him for being a conservative champion of peace through strength,” Huckabee says at the end of the ad.
Graham is up for re-election this year, and several Republican candidates have emerged to challenge him on the right. The SCCAA ad was interpreted by many to be an endorsement of Graham — for instance, both RealClearPolitics and RedState posted items describing it as such.
But Huckabee said that was not his intention in a statement posted Thursday on the website for his PAC, HuckPAC.
“To be clear, I haven’t endorsed Lindsey Graham for Senate,” Huckabee wrote. “Last year, I voiced an ad thanking him for support of Israel. It was not an endorsement for his reelection. In fact, I don’t plan to endorse anyone in SC Senate race in the primary but I will certainly help in the general election if asked.”
Huckabee took a jab at Graham, suggesting his campaign was misrepresenting the ad.
“Obviously, Senator Graham’s people are using the ‘Thank you’ ad and treating it like an endorsement, but neither the PAC nor I personally have endorsed in the South Carolina Senate race,” Huckabee said. “Please help me by sharing this statement with your friends across South Carolina so voters understand where I stand.”
No mention of the video or the supposed endorsement appears on Graham’s campaign page or Facebook page.
“We agree with Gov. Huckabee that this is not an endorsement,” Ambassador David Wilkins, the Chairman of SCCAA, told The Daily Caller.* The group, he said, does not endorse candidates: it is simply “an advocacy group, and we advocate for positions on key conservative issues.”
Huckabee announced last month that he was seriously considering another bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, which would presumably have him spending a lot of time in South Carolina. After he told several media outlets that he was considering a run, his longtime pollster sent out some field polls showing him leading the Republican field in the Palmetto State. Other potential Republican presidential hopefuls have already begun courting Graham: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the New York Times he would campaign for Graham.
*This post has been updated with Wilkins’ comments.