EAU CLAIRE, WIS. -- "People ask me, 'Are you doing this for your future and your career?'" a worked-up Mike Huckabee said to a crowd of about 400 college students in the Green Bay area.
"Look, I may be killing my political career," he said.
"But I know this, if we don't start thinking about solving America's problems, we're killing all your careers that are standing here today as students, and that's unacceptable."
It was an impassioned moment from a candidate who arrived on stage trying out a new batch of lines, which he delivered in a measured, if sometimes stilted, manner.
"The national media has sort of said, well, the math doesn't work for you. Well let me give them some Huck-a-math here, okay?" Huckabee said as he tried out the new concept on stage. Over the course of approximately five minutes, Huckabee made his argument.
"We need to be adding to our borders for security... We need to subtract the idea of government spending...we need to be multiplying answers to the real problems we face in this country...and then we need to do some dividing. We need to divide up the nonsense in Washington and separate the children from the adults...Somebody's got to be willing to divide the divisiveness in Washington."
Huckabee was more relaxed and vibrant during a rare question and answer session that followed his speech. Asked how the education system could be improved, Huckabee spoke about the need for music and arts.
"Take a five-year-old kid, and you don't have to beg him to draw a picture. Put a crayon and a piece of paper in his hand, what does he do - he draws a picture. Same kid, when he's fifteen, give him a piece of paper and a crayon, and he says, 'I'm not good at this.' Five-year-old kid - leave him alone, and he'll sing his lungs out. When he's fifteen, you can't coax him into singing. What happened? Our education system beat the ever living creativity out of him between the time he was five and fifteen. And it's virtually a criminal act we have not stimulated the creativity that is natural to every human being and instead we have stifled it. That has got to stop or we'll never be competitive in this world. We need a music and arts education for every student."
Huckabee also fielded a question on who he thought was more liberal -- Obama or Clinton. Rather than assess their liberal qualities, Huckabee mused over the "challenges" each would present for the GOP -- Hillary has a "formidable" political machine and Obama "has certainly captured a spirit and enthusiasm in this country and I admire him for that."
At the media avail that followed, Huckabee was asked to explain the comment he was "killing" his career.
"Well, what I mean by that -- I was just saying there are a lot of people who say that you know I am staying and creating problems for the party and there are obviously some people in the party who are unhappy I am staying, now keep in mind, they are all supporting John McCain. But this sense that it's just his turn, let's just all step aside -- I find that insulting as a Republican and as a candidate.
Questioned again about whether he was helping or hurting his future, Huckabee said it wasn't about him.
"I think I am helping the country's future, I think I'm helping the party's future," he said.
"The party is not well-served if it doesn't have an honest discussion of who it is, where it's headed. And if the party can't handle having more than one point of view, then it's not a very strong party."