ORLANDO, FLA. -- With about 150 supporters crowded around a podium set up on the tarmac of Orlando Executive airport (and about 20 Ron Paul supporters waving signs outside) Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of "Right Now" by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan."
[**UPDATE: The Huckabee campaign later clarified the last quote, telling CBS News: "Gov. Huckabee while speaking at a campaign event earlier this morning in Florida intended to extend his deepest sympathies to the people of Pakistan when he used the word 'apologies.' He is outraged and saddened by the attack and the loss of a world leader whose life he believes was a profile in courage."]
He said the assassination is a reminder that here in the US, we are lucky to vote "not with bullets but with ballots," and said "I guess we are sometimes lulled into failing to appreciate the magnitude" of the democratic process.
After moving onto other subjects in his rally (more on that in a moment) he took questions from the press. I asked him what he would do right now if he were President to tackle the situation. He avoided taking a strong policy position, saying he would offer sincere sympathies to the people of Pakistan, and monitor who's behind it. When asked what he thinks of the Musharraf government and how it has handled the security situation and aid from the US, he replied, "I think today is not the best day to comment on what the Musharraf government should or shouldn't have done" though "we need a full accounting of that money." He was also asked if today's news highlights why the next President needs to have foreign policy, which he lacks. His reponse: "I think it's more important to have the right principles for the American people."
He made a bad choice of words when saying the U.S. needs to consider "what impact does it have on whether or not there's going to be martial law continuing in Pakistan." He should have said whether or not martial law will be reinstated – it was lifted nearly two weeks ago. A minor slip, maybe, but not a subject he wants to mess up on when he is already considered weak in the area of foreign policy.
[**UPDATE: The Huckabee campaign later clarified this last point, telling CBS News: "Governor Huckabee firmly believes that emergency rule/martial law in Pakistan, as a practical matter, should not be viewed as having been completely lifted until the restrictions imposed during that period on the press and judges are removed. Although General Musharraf let the pendulum swing a little more freely in the last few weeks, the overall policy, which is what the Governor was addressing in his comments, has been, and continues to be, repressive."]