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May 30. 2012 9:55PM

Huckabee works to fire up GOP faithful at Manchester event


Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee hugs Doris Oczykowski of Manchester before the start of the New Hampshire GOP Victory Dinner at the Radisson in Manchester Wednesday evening. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — The 2012 election is about the country's future, not about dwelling on the past, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told a gathering of about 750 New Hampshire Republicans Wednesday night.

Huckabee, a candidate in the 2008 Presidential election, was a critic of former Massachussetts governor and current Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said the Republican Party — himself included — must unite to back Romney against Democratic President Barack Obama.

“People have asked me if any of (the 2008 Republican primary) lingered over and would make it difficult to support Mitt Romney,” he said. “This isn't about some petty past moments between me and Mitt Romney. Let me unequivocally state that I will do everything I can humanly do to make Mitt Romney our President.”

The Annual Victory Dinner in the Armory Room of the Radisson Hotel, which cost $100 per person to attend or $250 for access to a VIP session with Huckabee, served as likely the year's largest fundraiser for the New Hampshire GOP, said Tory Mazzola, executive director.

“It's not only a boost financially, but it's about rallying behind (Romney),” Mazzola said. He did not have figures available for how much the NHGOP hoped to raise.

The event also included a small protest outside the Radisson Hotel, where about 25 people demonstrated against state gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne, primarily because of his stated support for proposed right-to-work legislation, which seeks to prevent compulsory union membership or dues paying at a workplace.

“I'm out here to protect my personal welfare,” said Mike King of Manchester, who said he is a union iron worker. “(Lamontagne) wants to create a right-to-work state, which would diminish workers' rights. These are rights that people before me fought hard to get and my generation is fighting hard to keep.”

“Right-to-work would, over time, lower wages for all employees, not just union employees,” said Deb Howes, who said she is a teacher at Amherst Street school in Nashua. “How are we going to support an economy when no one has any money to spend?”

During a short press conference before his speech, Huckabee said he gives no credence to so-called birther theories, which subscribe to an idea that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.

“I have no doubt he was born in Hawaii and is an American citizen,” Huckabee said. “I'm not as concerned about where he came from. I am more concerned about where he is taking the country and its future.”

He said he hasn't been asked or approached about the vice presidential nomination. He said he would “love” it if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were selected.

“I think he has some skills and abilities,” Huckabee said of Rubio.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has also been identified by Romney as a potential nominee.

“The vice presidency is the job nobody wants and nobody ever turns down,” he said.


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