Now, everyone loves Mike Huckabee. After the Fox News host decided this weekend that a lucrative TV contract was more appealing than slogging through a presidential bid, the rest of the GOP field issued fawning statements to lure an endorsement. Except for Mitt Romney. But he wasn't going to get a hearty slap on the back from Huck anyway.
Huckabee's disdain for the robotically good-looking Republican runs all the way back to the 2008 Iowa caucuses, where he surged past Romney after a bitter campaign. But it wasn't just primary posturing that forged the rift between the pair. Really, you couldn't pick two more aesthetically different Republicans: Mitt the tall, good-looking technocrat who touted business-acumen and deempahsized his Mormonism. And Huck, the formerly fat, fast-food loving, guitar-playing, evangelical Arkansas governor with such a bitingly fast one-liner that he could render Mitt to "plastic-smile status" (pictured above) instantly.
Out of sheer nostalgia, we hoped for Mitt vs. Huck round two in Iowa. Since that won't happen, we'd like to relive a few of our favorite petty tussles and moments of unapologetic loathing between the two. First things first:
Huckabee: Mitt Has No Hunting Credentials
This was a relatively tame salvo. But it also occurred in April 2007, more than eight months before the Iowa caucuses in 2008. When businessman Mitt, burnishing his everyman credentials, suggested he was a lifelong hunter but then was found not to have a hunting license, Huckabee responded: "It would be like me saying I've been a lifelong golfer because I played putt-putt when I was 9 years old and I rode in a golf cart a couple of times." Mitt's flat-footed retort--"I'm by no means a big game hunter. I'm more Jed Clampett than Teddy Roosevelt"--foreshadowed the aesthetic battle to come. Here Huck poses with an enormous hunting knife in an Iowa store later in the campaign:
Romney: Huck Was 'Soft' on Meth, Death Penalty
When Huckabee started surging in the polls in the fall of 2007, Romney, who preferred attacking Huckabee in advertisements rather than in quips, sent a mailer out to Iowans about the candidate being soft on the death penalty and punishing meth addicts. The Washington Post got a hold of it and Huck responded by upping the ante: "I carried out the death penalty 16 times, more than any other governor in my state's history," he declared in response.
Huckabee: Don't Mormons Believe the Devil is the Brother of Jesus?
In a New York Times magazine interview before Huckabee bested Romney in Iowa, the evangelical Christian baited his Mormon rival:
"Don't Mormons," [Huckabee] asked in an innocent voice, "'believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?'"
Romney immediately deemed it a "traditional" religious "smear" and a backlash forced Huckabee to retreat to an aw-shucks-I-didn't-mean-it apology: "I just wanted to make sure that he heard directly from me, face to face, eyeball to eyeball, that I truly was sorry that that had come out that it looked like I had taken some shot at his faith," Huck said.
Mitt: Huckabee, 'You Make Up Facts Faster Than You Talk'
In advance of the New Hampshire primary, Mitt finally focused-grouped a decent zinger in a debate. While debating who raises taxes the least, Romney interrupted Huckabee to give one of his more memorable lines of the primaries: "Mike you make up facts faster than you talk, and that says something," (0:23 in video below). Huckabee just congenially smiled.
Huckabee: Mitt Can't Even Eat Fried Chicken Right
File this insult under the appeals-to-beer-drinkers approach to presidential pandering. In late January 2008, as the primaries turned to the southern states, Huckabee noticed something curious about Mitt's eating habits: he failed to eat the chicken with the skin on. Sensing an opening, the fast-food loving candidate opined: "I can tell you this," he said, "any Southerner knows if you don’t eat the skin don’t bother calling it fried chicken." Romney had said he was looking for a healthier option. Here, Huckabee seems to hold an entire press conference on the relative merits of Southern fried chicken:
Huckabee: Mitt Why Don't You 'Let Them Eat Stocks!'
Long after the campaign ended with niether of the two winning the nomination, Huckabee dredged up old wounds in a November 2008 book. He wrote that he felt "total disrespect" when Romney didn't call him after he won the Iowa caucuses and characterized Mitt as being "anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president." He then panned Romney's economic shtick by writing why don't you let voters "eat stocks."
Rumor: Huckabee Will Run for President Just to Spite Mitt
The most recent, but laughably believable, rumor swirling around Mike Huckabee's will-he-or-won't-he 2012 candidacy was that he'd run just to beat Mitt Romney. So whispered a anonymous "prominent Republican" to Politico:
"[Huckabee] hates Mitt, and his goal in Iowa last time was to stop him," said one prominent Republican, who’s known both men for years. "If he sees an opportunity to cut Mitt off [during the nominating process], he will take it."
Huckabee dismissed the rumor with folksy astonishment saying that "gosh," such a serious decision shouldn't be made by weighing a "personal" issue: "That's absurd. It's beyond absurd."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.