Mike Huckabee draws crowd at Rock Hill book signing

If a one-time presidential candidate writes a book, is it a coincidence that his book tour includes a stop in an early primary state?

That was the question hanging over the appearance of Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential contender, who stopped in Rock Hill on Thursday to sign copies of his latest book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”

“I have a lot of friends and supporters from eight years ago here,” Huckabee said, referring to his last campaign for the GOP’s nomination in South Carolina’s 2008 presidential primary. “A lot of them said they were ready to step up again in the event we gave them something to do.”

But Huckabee, who recently ended his Fox News program to explore making another run for the White House, didn’t make any announcements during his time on the receiving line.

“I just told them to rest up and get ready,” he said.

The author and not-quite-candidate’s stop at the Books-A-Million in Manchester Village was one of several stops he’s making on a regional bus tour, hitting 43 cities in two weeks. Earlier in the day he had another signing in Greensboro, N.C., and a later event in Charlotte before he bused to Greenville to spend the night.

Inside the bookstore, fans and potential voters lined up to get their pre-purchased copies of the book signed and their photos taken with the former governor. The line stretched around the corner of the signing area and snaked down the aisles, as people clutched a numbered ticket they received along with their purchase to ensure their chance to meet Huckabee.

The line moved at a pretty quick pace – Huckabee said he’d honed his signature down to a quick motion – and many of those in line had been there less than an hour before the activity started by 4 p.m.

“I bought the book first, then I came back to get the ticket, so this is my third trip here this week,” said Don Helton, who had already gone through the line once to get his book signed, then purchased another copy for a friend and got back in line.

Helton gave a compelling reason for wanting to see Huckabee up close: “He’s the next president.”

Cecilia Quinlan had similar sentiments to share when she walked up to the governor clutching her copy.

“I told him I’m hoping to hear you will be running soon,” Quinlan said.

Alicia Young was one of the younger members of the crowd, but not the youngest; she shuttled her four children between the ages of 18 months and 7 down the aisle toward the governor, turning the trip into a family outing for the Charlotte resident.

“I’m friends with Mike Huckabee’s Facebook page, and I got a personalized invite, I guess just because I live in the area,” she said.

In addition to Young’s book copy, her children had a copy of their Huckabee-produced “Learn Our History” cartoon DVD for the governor to sign.

After putting pen to page for the last customer, Huckabee stayed behind to talk with staffers and sign a shelf’s worth of store copies of “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.” Then it was back on the large bus with his face on the side, and on to the next stop.

Not dissimilar to the pace of a presidential campaign.