WASHINGTON – Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is comfortable speaking about his faith.
Then again, he was a former small town Southern Baptist preacher once.
Still, the pastor turned presidential candidate is raising the bar when it comes to religious talk, declaring that faith not only influences, but defines him.
In his new TV ad, the former Arkansas governor courts Iowa's large conservative voting base by declaring that "faith doesn't just influence me, it really defines me."
The ad features Huckabee at last month's Values Voter Summit in Washington, where he said, "Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody's politics. Not now, not ever."
His speech, and particularly that statement, won him a standing ovation from the conservative Christian crowd and gave him an overwhelming lead among onsite voters in the summit's straw poll. He came in a narrow second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, however, when online votes were added.
Moreover, Huckabee revealed in a recent CNN interview, "I put my head on the pillow and I just want to make sure that the Father above is pleased,"
"In essence, I can say that I have one client I have to please," he said.
The Republican White House contender takes his message – the Gospel that is – to the pulpit even during the busy campaign schedule.
This past Sunday, Huckabee took to the pulpit of a Baptist church in South Carolina not as a presidential contender but as a former pastor.
"I am here today to talk about Jesus and not to talk about me," Huckabee said to the congregation, according to CNN.
Huckabee is the first political figure since religious broadcaster Pat Robertson – who ran for the Republican nomination in 1988 – to gain such a prominent national political role while being so openly defined by his faith.
But John Green, a University of Akron professor who studies the role of religion in politics, has praised Huckabee on his handling of faith and public duty.
"It's very rare to have someone who has a religious background; who's been a pastor; who has also served in high public office such as a governor or senator and can put those roles together effectively," said Green to CNN.
"Up to this point, [former Arkansas] Gov. Huckabee seems to have done a very good job talking about his faith and politics in a very comfortable and apparently sincere fashion – that's a bit unusual," Green noted. "There are many politicians who have a hard time putting those two things together."
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Huckabee is only four points behind Romney among Iowa Republicans. In August, Huckabee had a surprisingly strong second-place finish in August at the Iowa straw poll.