Huh? Founder of Minuteman Project endorses ... Huckabee? Update: Huck 39, Mitt 23 in Iowa, says Rasmussen

And why not? What better choice for a border enforcer than a guy known for blaming opposition to comprehensive immigration reform on “racism or nativism”?

Snowed in, the Mike Huckabee campaign cancelled his morning events and organized an impromptu news conference where he received the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project.

Huckabee accused the federal government of “failing” to put together an immigration policy where people “come through the front door, not the back door” and live with their “head held up high. Calling the “amnesty of the 1980s” a “miserable failure,” Huckabee said “we’ve created” a “society where people are forced into hiding.”

Gilchrist said he had been made aware of Huckabee’s plan a month ago and Huckabee said the endorsement had nothing to do with Romney’s new ad criticizing him on the immigration issue and was merely “providential.”

Do note: The Minuteman Project is distinct from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the group led by Chris Simcox that patrols the border. The MP is the one that got rushed at Columbia and which accused Bush of … throwing the 2006 election in order to make it easier to push amnesty through Congress. Good work, Huck.

Via MM, a nod from the candidate at his more nuanced past:

“Frankly, Jim I’ve got to tell you there were times in the early days of the Minutemen I thought what are these guys doing, what are they about,” Huckabee said. “I confess I owe you an apology.” He said of Gilchrist, “nobody can question his commitment to his country.”

Exit question: Is it really this simple? Just lift a few bullet points from Mark Krikorian and the slate is clean?

Update: Perhaps I was hasty in pronouncing Rudy the most shameless panderer on immigration. Via Slublog, June 30, 2005: “Huckabee promotes ‘open door’ policy at LULAC convention.”

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” Huckabee said, citing the Golden Rule. “I have tried to govern that way and it stands to reason that I really do believe that what made this great country so great and so unique is that it has always been a place for people to run to – and not run from.

Update: Last Friday’s Newsweek poll was no outlier. He’s starting to run away with Iowa, and already leads in South Carolina and Michigan. “Sixty-two percent (62%) of Evangelical Christians now support Hucakbee in Iowa.”

Update: Commenter bnelson flags this from the Ramussen analysis: “Thirty-two percent (32%) said that a candidates faith and religion is a Very Important factor when considering how to vote. That figure jumps to 54% among Huckabee supporters. Just 18% of Romney supporters share that view.”