NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Monday he hasn’t yet decided whether he will mount another campaign for president, but is willing to give up his steady stream of wealth to do it.
“You know, if I have to, you do,” Huckabee said over coffee with a handful of political reporters. “That’s part of the consideration.”
His post-2008 lucrative career in radio and television is believed to have factored in his decision not to run in 2012. Huckabee said he’s still deciding about 2016.
“I have not made a decision about whether I’m going to run or not,” he said.
He acknowledged that he has much more money in the bank now than he did when he first ran for president in 2008.
“I would certainly be in a different place than I was eight years ago,” Huckabee said. “I mean, eight years ago, my wife and I cashed in life insurance, mortgaged the house, depleted our savings. It was tough.”
Huckabee, accompanied Monday by former 2008 campaign staffers Chip Saltsman and Alice Stewart, said he will likely make a decision to run by the “early second quarter” of next year.
A recent poll in Iowa shows Huckabee leading other Republicans at 21 percent. He’s followed by Paul Ryan at 12 percent, Rand Paul at seven percent, Jeb Bush at six percent and Chris Christie at six percent.
Huckabee says he’s prepared to be president because, “I know how to govern.”
He pointed out that he governed for 10-and-a-half years in a state with a heavily-controlled Democratic legislature and still got “90 percent plus” of his legislative package passed.
“It’s about developing relationships, building camaraderie, building trust,” Huckabee said. “I don’t think you’ll find a Republican who got 49 percent of the African-American vote, as I did, in my re-election as governor. That had high Hispanic support. Those are things I think could be valuable to the party.”
Huckabee on Monday answered questions for about 45 minutes on variety of topics. Here are some highlights:
His 2016 considerations: “The advantage that I have is that I’ve run before. The disadvantage is that I’ve run before. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword. … You’re not as not naive, and I think that’s a plus. The other thing that you have is a little bit of understanding that you got to be able to raise money, you got to have people willing to support you financially.”
What would you differently than Obama on ISIS?: “I don’t play golf, so I’d have a lot more time. … We’ve telegraphed too many things we won’t do. The fundamental thing you never want to do is to say, ‘I’m going to beat you, but I may not really do it, because here are all the things I’m not going to do.’ I think what you do is you create a clear understanding that you are not going to leave anything off the table. The fact is, we know this from being in junior high. A bully never picks on somebody if he thinks the other guy is going to whip his butt. You just don’t. You only pick on a guy if you’re pretty sure he’s not going to do anything about it. And the day the bully stops is the day somebody whips his butt. It’s pretty much that simple.”
On the killings of Christians: “Middle Eastern Christians are being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands in a number of countries — Syria, certainly it’s happened in Iraq — and I think there’s a bounty on the heads of Christian people. And we’re not hearing very much about the almost attempted genocide of Christians in the Middle East.”
Doubts Obama reads intelligence reports: “I’m not sure this president has read the briefings. You know, clearly he was saying ISIS was a JV team when he was getting conflicting reports from his own daily intelligence briefing. And you wonder, was he actually taking the time to read it? Who was reading it? And what were they telling him?”
Hits Obama on Israel: “There’s such a disconnect with the current administration as to what should be a very clear foreign policy objective when it comes to the Middle East, and specifically Israel. And I put it this way: I honestly think Barack Obama could sit down and watch a western from the fifties, and at the end of it, he wouldn’t be able to tell you who the good guys and the bad guys were. It’s obvious, as it always was in the fifties, to watch a Western. For the state department to continue to act as if there is some moral equivalency between Hamas and Israel, and to join with the chorus of boo birds from the U.N. to question the manner in which Israel has tried to defend itself, is utterly remarkable.”
About being pigeonholed in politics as the Baptist minister: “I don’t get to write the narrative. … I don’t know any other person that’s run for office and all the questions relate to what he did 25 years earlier, and none to what he’s been doing for the last 25. That’s something that’s inexplicable to me. But I served in elected office longer than I served in the church. Not that I thought that ever disqualified me anyway. I thought it helped me to understand human nature a whole lot better. It was great preparation, like a an extended graduate school of humanity.”
Does Rand Paul’s influence worry him?: “I like Rand. I campaigned for him when he ran for the Senate in Kentucky. I think he and I have different views on a host of things. But that’s what an election process is for. He hasn’t announced; neither have I, so I think it would be best not to evaluate people that have not made a decision to run.”
Supports RNC’s attempts to limit debates: “I want to say hats off to Reince Priebus for, I think, having a very different approach to the debates for the 16 cycle. And I think he’s dead right. Don’t let these things become proliferated to the point of having 20 of them, and people run out of things to say, so they stop talking about the things they know and get into the things they just heard about. And at the same time, have moderators that do cover the entire spectrum and not just get bogged down on issues a lot which some times in the debates get almost to the point of getting silly. I remember the questions on creation and things, and you think, ‘Seriously, does this have anything to do with being president?'”
Says politicians should have to resign to run for another office: “One of the reforms I would like to see implemented is anybody who holds office and runs for office, other than the one they’re running to be re-elected in, would have to resign the office they currently hold in order to seek the one they’d like to have. And I just think that’s frankly a responsible act for a person… I know this, if I were getting a paycheck every week from Fox, as I am, and if I started going over and begging CNN for a job everyday, it’d take about 20 minutes before I’d get a call from [Fox News chairman] Roger Ailes to come see him. And he’d have some boxes. And he’d say, ‘Mike, here are some boxes. And I thought you might want to put all your stuff in them. And I want your butt on 6th Avenue in the next half hour.’ And you know what, he’d be absolutely right.”
Wants to get rid of campaign finance limits: “In a perfect world, I think you’d get rid of everything and say look candidates can take unlimited amounts, they have to report it within 24 hours. Because everything we do to reform politics makes it worse.”
Not sure Hillary will run: “Probably nobody in the Republican field right now maybe has a longer history or knows her any better than I do. I think she’d be a very formidable candidate. While I think she’s very seriously doing everything possible to move to the point of being a candidate, I’m not absolutely convinced that she jumps in the water.”
How would he describe Hillary?: “Smart, tough, don’t ever underestimate her. In many ways, she’s a policy genius. But I don’t know that she has the same affable charm that her husband does — but then again who does?”
Doubts he’ll return to CPAC, the annual conservative gathering: “I probably won’t be back. … You know, it’s gotten less and less attractive to me. Because it’s become more and more libertarian and less and less Republican. And it also, when they first invited me, they said, we want you to speak 25 minutes. And then, three weeks out, well 20. And two days before, 15. And then when I got there, it was 10 minutes. And you know, I don’t live in Washington. So I had to move heaven and earth to make it here on a Friday, to still get to New York. It was not an easy logistical issue. And I’m thinking, you know, to come that way to be part of 300 people to speak at the podium for nine minutes and 59 seconds, I got other ways to get a message out. I’m not sure that I’ll make that one again.”