Most important, though, at this point Hope begs a comparison Huckabee aims to highlight.
“I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t use it as a way to contrast himself with the Clinton machine,” said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway and a co-editor of Arkansas Politics and Government. “I think he can use it to emphasize himself as the ‘un-Clinton.’”
“You think of Bill Clinton, you think of Fayetteville and Hot Springs; that’s really where he lived,” said Dr. Lester Sitzes, a Hope dentist who was Huckabee’s best man and is still one of his best friends. “A lot of people from Hope didn’t realize he was from Hope until he ran for president.”
“He’s not going to come out and say it,” Nelson said of the Huckabee speech, “but that’s the message: I really am from here. This really is home.”
“He’s one of us,” said Mark Keith, the head of the area chamber of commerce.
“America,” Gidley said, “is going to get a chance to see where Mike Huckabee came from.”