HH: I’m so pleased to begin today’s program with former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate, Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Governor, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, always a pleasure.
MH: Thank you, Hugh, it’s great to be back on the show, especially on a very historic day with the vote in Washington on the budget.
HH: I want to talk about that budget vote in a moment, but it’s been three days since the debate. The undercard debate had 6.3 or 6.4 million people watching it, and everybody praised the quality, style, tone, substance of that debate. Is Mike Huckabee still in the race and still going strong? Question number one.
MH: Absolutely. This race is a race that hasn’t really even started, so all the people who think it’s over, they don’t remember that we haven’t even had the first vote, yet. That doesn’t happen until February the 1st in Iowa, where I happen to be right now. And we just completed a poll of 5,000 people in Iowa. 75% of the people in Iowa haven’t made up their mind firmly, yet. So it’s a little premature for people to start saying who’s going forward and who’s already finished.
HH: And what did you make of the debate, both the first and the second debate, Governor Huckabee? I didn’t have a chance to chat with you in the Spin Room. I had to stay on the stage.
MH: Hugh, I thought it was an exceptionally well-managed debate, and I’ve said this to Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, and I tried to say it to you as well. I thought that the questions were substantive, serious and solid. I felt it was a debate that focuses on real issue, and it didn’t turn into a game show. There was a balance of questions to the various ones of us who were on at least the first stage. I was able to monitor that a lot better, of course, being on the stage. But I walked off feeling like that, you know, we really had an honest, serious, thoughtful discussion that illuminated for the American people many of our key views. Now if you’re a candidate, there are always things you wished you’d been asked, or things that you wanted to get in on. It doesn’t work that way. But I thought that it was a very well-balanced debate, and I also, what I saw of the second debate, I felt like that especially Wolf Blitzer did the best job I’ve seen in this entire season of actually managing the debate, and by that I mean that he kept the candidates on task and forced them to follow the rules, and didn’t let them take over the process by interrupting, by greatly extending the time that was allocated to them, and essentially cheating the clock. And frankly, that’s a tough job to do. You’ve got a lot of ego on that stage. And the fact that he was able to keep things moving and make it fair, I thought, was just an exceptional, professional presentation from you, from Dana and from Wolf. And I gave everybody an A+, and I really mean that. And let me tell you, Hugh, I’m not easy to please, as one of the debaters on that stage.
HH: Well, thank you, Governor. I appreciate that. I think Wolf Blitzer obviously has eight debates under his belt, and that helps a great deal in managing. And everybody learns as they go along how to actually act with nine people or ten people on a stage, or four. Let’s go the substance of the day, and then we’ll come back to the debate. Congress today approved a $1.15 trillion dollar spending measure that includes $620 billion dollars in tax breaks. It’s got some things in there that I like, a lot that I don’t like. What does Mike Huckabee think about this bill?
MH: Well, if you’re a Democrat, I think it’s terrific. You love it. Obama loves it. Pelosi loves it. Schumer loves it. Harry Reid loves it. I hate it, and I’ll tell you why. Republicans basically got nothing that said conservatives are the majority in the House and Senate. I mean, you can say okay, well, we’re going to export oil. Well, that’s terrific. We should have been doing that anyway. But here’s what we didn’t get. We didn’t get a defunded Planned Parenthood. We didn’t get a pause in the Syrian refugee relocation or on immigration. We didn’t get any commitment that we’re going to see the Iranian deal stopped or even at least curtailed. We didn’t see any real tax policies that are going to fundamentally help us get jobs back. We didn’t see a pause on Trans-Pacific Partnership. I mean, I could go through a litany of things. But essentially, Republicans, and specifically conservative Republicans, have nothing but just tears coming out of their eyes as a result of this, if not, maybe flames coming of our ears.
HH: Now I think, let me argue the case that I’ve been told by conservatives that the medical device tax has been postponed, the Cadillac tax on health plans has been postponed, some additional tax credits on development, you mentioned the oil export, anticipating that that ban is a huge jobs saver, but that the President was going to veto anything other than that, and we just need to go and regroup and win an election before we can do better. What do you think, Mike Huckabee?
MH: Well, you know, Hugh, that sounds good, but the problem is we don’t have guys who can take it to the President and ever make him negotiate anything. We surrender before we ever even have the fight. We assume he’s going to veto. He probably will. And we then assume that we’re going to absolutely lose. And guess what? We are going to lose when we don’t have leaders who can go to the President and say you have a line? Well, we have one, too. And if you want to play hardball, then we are going to also play hardball. We have the power of the purse. You want to veto everything? Fine, we’ll defund the White House. Look, I was a governor ten and a half years. I dealt with a hardball legislature every day of my life. You learn that you have to end up working with people when they have real leadership and they have strong views. We’ve got a very weak leadership going on in the House and Senate. I’m sorry, I thought they were going to do better, but I’m ashamed of them. I’m mad at them. I just felt like that they capitulated on virtually everything of great substance. And I hear you on things like the Cadillac tax and the medical device tax. But Hugh, those are small crumbs from the table. Basically, the Democrats had the banquet, and what we got to do was go eat up the crumbs that were left under the table at the feet of the Democrats once they got finished gorging themselves on all the food that Obama wanted.
HH: Now Governor Huckabee, Lindsey Graham voted for the package. Ted Cruz voted against it. Marco Rubio was not there for the vote. Does the package have anything to do with the presidential election in Iowa, New Hampshire and hereafter?
MH: Well, it certainly has been a topic of discussion in Iowa today. I’ve done four out of five events that I’m going to do in Iowa, and headed to the fifth one. And people are just furious. These are rank and file conservative Iowa Republicans, and these are people who keep up. And they just feel like that there is zero reason that they should go out and help Republicans get to the House or Senate, because whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power, it appears that the results are essentially the same. Even on the medical device tax, that was something that most of the Democrats felt like should be fixed, and the union pressure on the Cadillac tax was something that Democrats, at least many of them, would go for. So those are hardly Republican victories. Those could be considered Democrat concessions as well. I just think we got nothing but embarrassed out of the whole process.
HH: So will it have any impact on the race, then, because I think probably all of your colleagues on the trail with the exception of Lindsey Graham who puts Defense first, and there is a plus up in Defense, and this is a large plus up in Defense, I believe $33 billion dollars into the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund and other weapons systems. It’s a good, it’s a necessary lifting of the sequester. I think that’s why Lindsey Graham voted for it, but I’ll eventually catch up with him. Does it have any impact on who people in Iowa are going to vote for, because I don’t think it does. Tell me if I’m wrong, Governor.
MH: It may not. I mean, I don’t know that many of them were going to vote for Lindsey in Iowa anyway. And he may try to say it was because of the Defense measures, but look, Republicans should have pushed hard for that and separated it from the other things. I’m just saying that in a bill of this size, there should have been an ability to get more than we got, which was precious little. And it didn’t even appear that there was a big attempt. When you have Planned Parenthood and Nancy Pelosi dancing in the streets over the bill, it can’t be that good. The only other person it may hurt is Marco Rubio. I think the fact that he’s not showing up for work, nobody in Iowa that I talked to who has a job gets to just not show up for work and still get a full paycheck. And I do think that may create some problems. And he can say well, I would have voted against it. I was against it. But when you don’t show up to vote against it, I think you have some, as Ricky Ricardo would say, “You’ve got some splainin’ to do.”
HH: And explain to me while we’re on splainin’ the Mike Huckabee strategy. You’ve got, obviously, Arkansas on March 1st, but you’ve got to keep momentum going and money coming in and a team on the ground. How do you get from here to March 1st and pick up some of that Southern support that you are hoping to get on the SEC primary?
MH: Hugh, it all depends for us whether we are able to do well in Iowa on February 1st. That’s the first caucus. The first votes are cast in Iowa. You know, if we’re in fourth, fifth place, we’re done. We understand that. But we come in the first one or two, three slots here, we’re still on our feet, and that’s going to change the whole trajectory. That’s where I believe people sometimes sort of get a little ahead of themselves. They look at polls today. It seems like we’re a long way away, but when we did our 5,000 person poll in this state, and 75% have yet decided, we’re going to pretty much live here in January, all of our staff. We have, gosh, I think we’re going to have 30 staff, paid staff members in Iowa during the month of January. It’s all hands on deck for us. So you know…
HH: So you have to get one of the three tickets out of Iowa, though, Governor. Did I hear you say that clearly?
MH: We, absolutely. Absolutely, no doubt about that, because if we don’t, then it’s hard for us to see a way forward.
HH: Governor Mike Huckabee, always a pleasure, have a Merry Christmas if I don’t talk to you before that holiday, and I’ll talk to you early in the New Year or thereafter.
End of interview.