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GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, targets conservative Christians in his new television ad airing this week in Iowa.

“Faith doesn’t just influence me, it really defines me,” Huckabee says in the ad, which flashes a graphic “Christian Leader” across the screen. “I don’t have to wake up every day wondering, ‘What do I need to believe?'”

The scene cuts to Huckabee’s Oct. 20 speech at a Washington Values Voter Summit sponsored by Christian Right groups. “Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody’s politics, not now, not ever,” Huckabee says to a cheering crowd.

Graphics remind the former Arkansas governor “supports federal life amendment” and “as governor, passed marriage amendment.”

“I believe life begins at conception,” Huckabee cuts in a voice over.

Back to his values voter speech: “We believe in some things. We stand by those things. We live or die by those things,” he says, as a screen graphic reads “Authentic conservative.”

Huckabee’s second TV ad is a big departure from a whimsical “Chuck Norris Approved” commercial unrolled last week, featuring the action television and movie star turned conservative pundit.

According to a Washington Post blog, Huckabee told reporters in conference call Monday the Chuck Norris ad “did exactly what we wanted it to do, which is to get people to visit our Web site.”

“It had a big impact in the 18 to 30-year-old market, which we expected it to,” Huckabee said, adding he “had a lot of fun with that.”

Political observers viewed Huckabee’s new “Believe” ad, his most overt playing of the faith card to date, as positioning the candidate not only against Rudy Giuliani, despised by religious conservatives for liberal views on abortion and gay marriage, but perhaps a subtle swipe at Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, which many fundamentalist Christians consider a cult.

David Kuo, a former Bush White House staffer turned critic of politics of the Religious Right, said he wondered if Huckabee is becoming the “Republican Barack Obama,” appealing to voters on the basis of optimism and hope.

“All that being said, I really dislike the ad,” Kuo said in his BeliefNet blog. “This attempt to sell his religious faith as a political virtue cheapens his faith and cheapens politics.”

“I understand the politics behind it–the Religious Right has no candidate,” Kuo said. “Huckabee is a former Baptist preacher. Giuliani’s greatest weakness with social conservatives is his lack of social conservatism. Romney’s greatest weakness is his Mormon faith. This ad takes straight aim at both. I still don’t like it. You can do better than this Mike.”

On Sunday the first segment of Huckabee’s six-part interview with televangelist Kenneth Copeland aired on Copeland’s “Believers Voice of Victory” program.

“I want to make it very clear, even before we begin,” Copeland said. “Governor Huckabee is not here as a candidate. He’s not here politically. He is on this broadcast as an ordained minister of the gospel.”

Instead, Copeland said, Huckabee was there to talk about “the integrity of character,” a phrase that Copeland said he learned 10 years ago reading Huckabee’s book, Character is the Issue.

“I think the best definition of character I ever heard,” Huckabee said, “character is who we are when nobody is looking but God and what we are in those private moments really define us in our public moments.”

“God doesn’t want the circumstances of the world to change us,” Huckabee said. “He wants us to change the circumstances of the world.”

The interview didn’t steer completely clear of politics, however.

“For those of you not from Arkansas, you don’t understand what it means for a Republican to be elected lieutenant governor or elected to anything else, in the state of Arkansas,” Copeland said. “They’ve got down there what they call a yellow-dog Democrat, brother, which means they’d vote for a yellow dog as long as he’s Democrat, rather than to make any changes. And that’s one of the things that’s been so remarkable about God’s calling and anointing on this man.”

“This was the key thing to me,” Copeland said. “Back when I first read his book I heard a renowned politician make this statement: Character is no issue. If a man can do the job then what difference does it make what his character is? And right after that I read the governor’s book on character is the issue. And man, it really became a study tool for me and really inspired me to get deeper into the subject of character with integrity.”

Huckabee described how his character shaped by Bible values helped him overcome pettiness by political enemies after his election as Arkansas lieutenant governor.

“The greatest joy of being a believer and knowing Christ is knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to me ultimately is my death,” Huckabee explained. “From an earthly perspective it’s the worst thing that can happen to me. And it puts me instantly and immediately in the presence of the Lord from which I will never ever leave. So, you just want to say, ‘Devil, take your best shot, ’cause your best shot can’t do anything but just move me a little further.’ Brother Kenneth, I had a pastor when I was a boy and he used to make the statement, he said, ‘Son, don’t worry when the devil’s kicking you from behind, cause it proves that you’re still out front.'”

Huckabee said the Bible speaks of trials, because faith must be “tried” in order to be effective. Much as a musician doesn’t play an instrument well the first time he or she tries, character is forged day by day through perseverance and practice.

“That’s why when people say ‘I’m believing God for a miracle’ and the next day they have doubt,” he explained, “believe it again today and believe it the next day and believe it the next day. And the practice, the trying of our faith, is what works victory in us, and then that’s how we cross the finish line with our hands held high, and God is there to meet us at the finish line.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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