Former GOP hopeful Huckabee speaks to a packed house in Beaufort

BEAUFORT -- An ordained Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee was right at home Tuesday night at the pulpit of Community Bible Church.

The former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate was the guest of honor at the church's annual Men's Wildlife Supper, an event that drew an all-male audience of more than 3,500 to the church on Parris Island Gateway.

After dining on a free buffet of alligator tail, wild boar and venison, the crowd packed the church's auditorium as Huckabee delivered an impassioned 45-minute speech.

"There's a lot of anxiety in the world right now with the economy, and no one is really sure what's going to happen," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen in 2009, but no matter what happens with the economy, God is still God."

Tuesday night's appearance in Beaufort was a far cry from Huckabee's 2008 visits to the Lowcountry, when he stumped for the GOP presidential nomination.

"The last time I was here, I was running for president," he said. "Things didn't quite turn out the way we wanted, but I met some wonderful people here and am honored to be back."

Huckabee was edged in the state's Republican primary in January by the party's eventual nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

"He may have finished second, but Gov. Huckabee didn't cave on his values and didn't back off of his Christian beliefs," said Dr. Carl Broggi, the church's pastor. "We need men like what in whatever position we can get."