Democratic voters face two challenges heading into 2008. The first is deciding which Democratic candidate to support. The second is agreeing on which Republican candidate they’d most like to run against.

Until recently, the second task proved harder than the first, because all the GOP candidates seemed such easy targets. Paint Mitt Romney the Olympic flip-flopper. Remind Fred Thompson to set his alarm clock. Force Rudy Giuliani to explain why he provided a police car and driver for his wife, kids, mother and mistress – while he showed up in drag at official city events. It was hard to believe anybody could be easier to beat than one of the original three front-runners, until the spotlight turned on Mike Huckabee and the media started swooning over a “Huckaboom.”

At first, for a conservative, he seemed like such a nice guy: “a conservative without horns,” they used to call him. But once Mike Huckabee became the front-runner in Iowa, we suddenly learned a lot more about him, and his horns became all too apparent. The Huckaboom has turned into a Huckabust.

First, there’s that messy matter of the release of Arkansas convicted rapist Wayne Dumond – who went on to rape and murder another woman, maybe two, after his release from prison. Apparently, Huckabee fell for the nutty theory that since the 17-year-old girl Dumond raped was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton’s, she couldn’t be telling the truth. Conservative Christians rallied behind Dumond. Once elected governor, Huckabee became Dumond’s public advocate, writing him a personal letter of support and lobbying the state parole board for his release.

If Huckabee showed bad judgment in that case, he displayed appalling ignorance in dealing with HIV/AIDS. Responding to a questionnaire for Senate candidates in 1992, he supported a quarantine for all HIV-positive persons, opposed federal funding for AIDS research – suggesting Hollywood celebrities should pay for it, instead – and warned that homosexuality alone could pose “a dangerous public health risk.” He made this statement years after the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact. In the same questionnaire, Huckabee also opposed gays in the military, women in combat and unmarried people living together.

As troubling as were Huckabee’s actions as governor, his statements as an ordained Baptist minister are even more disturbing. After graduating from divinity school, Huckabee served as pastor for 12 years. When he traded the pulpit for politics, he took his religious beliefs with him – often mixing politics with religion.

In 1998, for example, Gov. Huckabee was one of 131 signatories on a full-page USA Today ad endorsing a controversial position on the role of women in marriage adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC policy declared: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” In turn, the ad Huckabee signed congratulated the SBC: “You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband’s sacrificial leadership.”

Were Huckabee ever to become president, American women would have to prepare to be treated as second-class citizens. But they’re not the only ones. So would all non-Christians. In 1998, Gov. Huckabee also told a gathering of pastors in Salt Lake City that, even though he was involved in politics, he didn’t think government could solve our problems. “The real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives,” declared the self-described “Christian leader.” Our goal, said Huckabee, is clear: “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.”

Take this nation back for Christ? Take it back from whom? And give it to whom? That call to Christian arms is scary enough coming from a Baptist pulpit. It’s downright un-American coming from an elected public official.

Which raises another point: How can you possibly preserve the separation of church and state by electing a pastor as president? You can’t. We wouldn’t consider electing a priest, nun, rabbi or mullah as president. Why an ordained minister?

The more we learn about the former governor of Arkansas, the more he becomes the candidate Democrats would be most eager to run against in 2008. Mike Huckabee is just what Democrats were hoping to find under the Christmas tree: an unelectable Republican front-runner.

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