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Arkansas governor makes his case in N.H.

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Republicans may be the dominant party in Washington, D.C., but Governor Mike Huckabee said he's a member of an endangered species in his heavily Democratic state of Arkansas.

Huckabee, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2008, was in New Hampshire yesterday -- his first visit to the earliest primary state.

Speaking at a breakfast gathering, Huckabee had harsh words for the political climate in the nation's capital.

''Washington is paralyzed. They're not getting anything done," he said. ''It's a polarized environment and a paralyzed environment."

Real reform is happening in individual states -- in education, welfare, and economic development, the new chairman of the National Governors Association said.

Huckabee made frequent quips at the podium but shared his passion describing the struggles of ordinary citizens, including those he dealt with as a Southern Baptist minister.

He said his religious background is often used against him, but that he got into politics because he felt politicians did not understand how they affect people's lives.

Echoing the compassionate conservative theme that marked the Bush campaign of 2000, Huckabee said the party needs to show a sense of compassion.

''I don't know if it's the reality or it's the perception that Republicans are more interested in businesses and corporations than they are people," he told reporters later. ''Frankly, good policies will have an impact across all socio-economic boundaries."

Huckabee also referred to mandatory sentencing laws that have contributed to rising prison costs.

''It's very, very expensive. We have now started to incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. Because we really don't have so much a crime problem, we've got a drug problem," he said.

After the question-and-answer session in Manchester, Huckabee made an appearance at a Republican ''Steakout" in Hollis organized by Nashua Republicans.

There he replaced another potential GOP presidential contender, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who bowed out for family reasons.

From there he was headed to the Strafford County Republican Picnic, Pig Roast, and Family Day near Dover. The pig roast is one of the biggest GOP events in the state and was expected to draw more than 800 people from throughout New England.

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