"It seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America,” Huckabee, a Republican, told the crowd.
He jumped into the race amid a slew of campaign announcements by other Republicans. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson launched White House bids Monday, bringing the number of major contenders for the GOP nomination to six.
Huckabee's wife, Janet, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke before Huckabee, and Tony Orlando serenaded the crowd, calling Huckabee "the most trusted man I've ever met in my life."
His national aspirations follow a climb to the top in Arkansas where he served as governor from 1996 to 2007 and lieutenant governor from 1993 to 1996. A video that played before Huckabee spoke today portrayed him as a fighter against the Clintons dating back to his early days in politics.
"Every day of my life in politics was a fight, and sometimes it was an intense one," he said in the video, which was first released last week. "But any drunken redneck can walk into a bar and start a fight. A leader only starts a fight that he's prepared to finish."
And while he didn't mention the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, by name, he did refer to the controversy over her family’s foundation.
"I don’t have a global foundation or a taxpayer-funded check to live off of," he said, after asking for contributions. "I grew up blue collared, not blue blooded."
In recent years Huckabee has become known as a television and radio personality. He hosted an eponymous show on Fox News from 2008 until earlier this year when he left the network to explore a presidential bid.
But today Huckabee played to the hometown crowd, telling them Hope was where he learned to fire a gun, fish and ride a bike.
"It is a long way from a little brick rent-house on Second Street to the White House," he said. "But here in this small town called Hope, I was raised to believe where a person started didn’t mean it’s where he had to stop."
Huckabee will waste no time in hitting the campaign trail. He plans to head to Iowa on Wednesday and Thursday and South Carolina on Friday for a "Factories, Farms and Freedom" tour through the two early-voting states.