MANCHESTER, N.H. (JTA) – Jason Bedrick, the first Orthodox member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, loves former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. But he was going to have to skip a Huckabee campaign event Sunday in his hometown of Windham because it was to be held at the Lobster Tail restaurant.
Bedrick, a member of a Chabad synagogue in Massachusetts and a fervent Huckabee supporter, informed the campaign last week he would be unable to attend the event at a non-kosher establishment.
A larger than expected turnout, however, led the Republican’s campaign to relocate the rally to the Windham Center school, and Bedrick showed up with a reported 600 others.
“It was absolutely packed,” Bedrick told JTA. “People were shoulder to shoulder. There were people waiting in line about an hour after to shake the governor’s hand.”
Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, has unnerved some liberal and Democratic Jewish groups with his evangelical rhetoric and statements. For example, at a Baptist convention in 1998, he urged his listeners to “take this nation back for Christ.”
Bedrick is unmoved by such concerns, describing Huckabee as a man of principles who upholds conservative values like economic freedom and personal liberty.
Despite a surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses last week, in which evangelical voters turned out in droves to support him, Huckabee is expected to have more trouble in New Hampshire, where voters are less excited by the candidate’s heavily Christian rhetoric.
Polls show Huckabee trailing his Republican opponents John McCain and Mitt Romney in advance of Tuesday’s primary.
Huckabee has retooled his message somewhat to appeal to New Hampshire voters, focusing less on social issues that lead him to invoke his Christian values and more on economic issues and tax policy, which resonate more with the stridently anti-tax citizenry of the Granite State.
“I think that’s a smart move on his part,” Bedrick said.
“He’s not saying anything different than he was saying in other places,” the Chabad lawmaker added, noting only the emphasis is different.
At one point during the rally – Huckabee appeared, as he often has, with the film star Chuck Norris – a heckler attacked the candidate for naming the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas, as an adviser on foreign policy.
By all accounts, Huckabee handled the situation calmly and skillfully, noting how wonderful it was to live in a country where someone can express his or her opinion without fear of violent retribution.
“I never saw someone so deftly handle a protester,” Bedrick said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.