HOPE, Ark., May 5 (UPI) -- Former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee announced he is running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election.
"I am a candidate for president of the United States of America," he said in his announcement speech.
Singer Tony Orlando opened the event with a rendition of the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" before a prayer was given, the American flag was presented and the national anthem was sung in a duet.
Orlando sang a second song, "America is My Hometown," before current Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson came onstage to show his support. Huckabee's wife, Janet, went onstage to praise her husband before a final video and his appearance.
Mike Huckabee made references to his youth as he grew up in Arkansas, where he learned how to fish and use guns.
"I never thought of using a firearm to murder someone," he said. "I truly went from Hope, to higher ground."
The crowd cheered, "We like Mike!"
The former Fox News host is popular with evangelical Christians. He won the Iowa caucuses in 2008. Analysts predict he could take support from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who have joined the race, and potential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
"For guys like Walker and Cruz, and maybe even Paul, Huckabee's entry to the race probably has the effect of pulling them to the right, at least on social issues," Reed Galen, a political strategist who worked for former President George W. Bush, told The New York Times.
Huckabee is lagging in the polls, with support averaging 7.5 percent. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida leads with 15 percent of poll averages for the Republican presidential nomination, according to Real Clear Politics.
"As my dad likes to say, we're at a great advantage because we've been through this before, and we're at a great disadvantage because we've been through this before," Huckabee's daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. "He's going to have a bigger target on his back."
Huckabee has found financial success since his 2008 presidential campaign. He's written multiple books, including the New York Times best-selling Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America.
He lives in a $3 million, six-bedroom beachfront home in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., and also owns a $500,000 house in North Little Rock in his home state.