Huckabee: All Hands On Deck In Iowa

Ex-AR Gov. Mike Huckabee will spend most of the next 65 days in Iowa and has moved the majority of his staff to the state in an effort to capitalize on a sense that he's gaining ground here.

Here's excerpts of an interview I conducted with Huckabee last night. He opines on Fred Thompson calling him a liberal, Pat Robertson, and a new generation of evangelicals:

A wise old hand told me today that Iowa was down to Romney and Huckabee. Do you see it that way?

“Well, I certainly think even the Iowa poll numbers are reflecting that we’re in play in a very strong way and continue to move up and other candidates have stalled and are beginning to decline. I think we’re in great position there.”

But to win, you’ve got to drive people to the polls. How are you going to do it? What’s your secret weapon?

“We’re hoping to do what we essentially did with the straw poll, just doing it on steroids. We know we’ve got to get physical bodies that so committed to us no matter how cold the temperature is… no matter how good the Orange Bowl is…. Among those caucus goers who have already made up their mind, we’re in first place.. what we’re doing now is to go down to the precinct level, recruiting chairman in the precincts, getting precincts townships, counties.. We’re developing our efforts where the concentration of voters is likely o be highest…

Pat Robertson cited Giuliani’s aggressive posture against radical Islam as the primary reason why he endorsed him. Is there a strain of eschatology in this? Christianity versus Islam – with Giuliani providing the secular response?

“I honestly don’t know. And I am at a loss to explain that endorsement. It probably caught Rudy off guard.”

Did you meet with Robertson?

“I’ve talked with him on the phone and months and months ago. It was due to a mutual friend who urged me to give him a call., I think it was back last December… it’s been quite some time ago… I never had an indication that he was going to make an endorsement of me or anyone else for that matter… I’d rather have followers than just have him.”

Fred Thompson said today you were pro-life… and a liberal on everything else.

“Let’s face it.. the Writers' Guild is on strike and Fred is kind of struggling to get some lines..whoever put that line together is writing for comedy and not for a serious political drama…

The Club for Growth… folks at the Family Research Council… a lot of the conservative establishment seems to be uncomfortable with you. Is part of it because you’re too independent? You’re not going to be beholden to them?

“I do think that’s part of it. [I’m not] a wholly owned subsidiary of anybody. I take that as a compliment. Also, there’s a new generation of leaders who are thinking that there are issues we’ve got to address that I’m addressing… we’re getting a lot of support from people who haven’t been so involved in political affairs in the past… they’re not the names that [people say] oh, yeah, he’s the big guy, but there are people who are emerging as a new generation of leaders who are interested in life issues and the sanctity of life, yes, but who have an interest in poverty, hunger… there’s a much broader agenda. …

As you travel through Iowa, is there any particular issue that people bring up with regularity that the national media isn’t really paying attention to?

“The underlying thing is sort of a [desire for] authenticity and consistency… that’s what people are really clued in on. Whatever I say, they want to know – is this a position you’ve just adopted, or is this what you really believe… does it pass the smell test of believability… ?. As far as a specific issue.. it’s going to be immigration…

You’re going to spend most of your time in Iowa from now on, I presume.

For the most part, I’m going to be in Iowa from now through January. Even the Little Rock staff is up here, if not permanently, for part of the time.