OKLAHOMA CITY -- On morning talk television yesterday, Mike Huckabee called Mitt Romney a "man who didn't hit political puberty in the Conservative ranks until he was sixty years old."
Asked to explain the comment today at a press conference, Huckabee described his opponent as a Johnny-come-lately to issues central to the Republican Party. Huckabee landed in the area after 4am and was up and dressed by 7:30 to deliver a speech at a rally. Despite having had only about two hours of sleep under his belt, Huckabee gave a detailed, blow-by-blow account of why Romney wasn't fit to be the nominee.
"On the second amendment – [Romney] supported Brady, he supported an assault weapon ban and still does. So if he says to anybody he's a second amendment supporter, anybody who's a true second amendment supporter knows if you support Brady and assault weapon ban, you're not a second amendment supporter."
"Secondly," Huckabee continued, in an aggressive attack that eclipsed the last time he went negative (Iowa), "He was very pro choice, supported strong positions for same sex relationships, said on television that he would do more for the gay/lesbian agenda than Ted Kennedy. That's pretty bold. He said he was not a part of the Reagan Revolution, said he was not a part of that Reagan/Bush thing -- that's on camera, that's not something I'm making up."
"Said he marched with Martin Luther King but he didn't, said he saw his father march with Martin Luther King but he didn't. Claimed that he was in law school when his church reversed its doctrine on African Americans, turned out he had been out of law school for three years – on the issue of even taxes, he said he never raised taxes but he did raise fees by $700 million."
Not letting up, Huckabee concluded, "I just think you can't just have a change of opinion on fundamental issues over and over and wait until you're running for President to do it. "To say that you've never thought about the origins of human life until you were nearly 60 years old -- I find that hard to believe even for somebody who hasn't run for office before, but certainly for somebody who had."
Infuriated by attempts made to characterize the fight for the GOP nomination as a two-way race, the ever-scrappy but usually courteous Huckabee displayed a level of fight that hasn't yet been seen on the trail.
Asked whether he or John McCain was more conservative, Huckabee vouched for himself.
"I think if you look at the record, I'm even more conservative. I supported the Bush tax cuts from the beginning and I believe in, you know, less government. I think that when it comes down to certain issues like the life amendment, the marriage amendment, those are issues I personally stand for very strongly. Those are conservative hallmarks. The human life amendment has been part of the GOP platform since 1980. So those are some specific issues that I think separate us."
But Huckabee also was more gracious to McCain than Romney, saying he still considered the former a conservative. He said Romney's characterization of McCain as a liberal was "absurd."
"If you look at Senator McCain compared to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, he's no liberal."
Huckabee emphasized that only 8 percent of delegates had been allocated so far and there were no "inevitable" candidates in the race.
"It's a little early for some of the national media to start deciding who the next president's going to be and who the nominee is going to be. The people are going to decide that."
Huckabee argued he was a "natural fit" for Oklahomans, not just as a governor from the region, but as someone who valued agriculture, the military, gun rights, pro-life principles, traditional marriage, hard work, and low taxes. He said his experience as governor of Arkansas made him more sympathetic to the interests of the Midwest and the South than a "a governor from Massachusetts" or "a senator who spent 25 years in Washington."