Huckabee: I've Got The "Right" Experience

Republican presidential hopeful former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's annual Reagan Dinner , Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Political Players is a weekly conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who are shaping American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talked with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee about his candidacy for president, his efforts to rally conservative Christian support, and why he's never used summer as a verb. One of the realities of American politics is that money often means electoral success. How can you sustain a winning presidential campaign having raised only about one-fifth as much as Ron Paul last quarter?

Mike Huckabee: Well, the same way that we have stayed on the ground when people thought we had to raise 20, and 30, and 50 million dollars to be where we are today. The reality is that I am ahead of candidates right now in national polls who have raised $60 million. So, I think it is not so much about how little we have raised, but how well we have done with what we have.

More importantly, we have seen just an explosion of fundraising in the last two weeks. We have had to upgrade our web server three times in a six day period. We have hired extra people just to open mail and answer phones. So, we are where we need to be at this point. And that is a good foundation. One of the criticisms of your campaign is that maybe you did not spend the time before you began running to travel around the country and to build a network of fundraisers.

Mike Huckabee: Well, I was busy being governor. And I told the people of Arkansas that I would give them my attention, and serve in that capacity until the day I left office. And that is exactly what I did. And for that I am not the least bit sorry.

They had elected me to do a job, and I fulfilled it, just like I would as president, if elected to do that job. It did put me behind the fundraising curve and the organizational curve. But we made up the ground. And now we are in a position where these other guys, who had been out there, burning a lot of money, now probably wish they were where I am in terms of at least gaining the ground. At least according to one poll out this week, you are in second place in Iowa. What is the scenario for you after Iowa? Is your plan to try to win there, and then ride that momentum into other states?

Mike Huckabee: Well, we certainly believe that doing well in Iowa moves us forward in New Hampshire, where we are also working hard. In addition to that, we're working hard in South Carolina. These three early primary states provide the sling shot to move forward.

We've acted to perform in these states. When we do, then we are in the game. And we think we are now. There is going to be a sorting out. It is what typically happens in these early three states. Some folks make it and others just do not get past them. We plan to get past them. A lot of the criticism of you--on policy grounds--has come from the economic right. They say that you raised taxes in Arkansas, that you are for universal health care and higher spending. Is it absolutely impermissible for a Republican candidate for office, even if he compensates with other tax cuts, to have ever raised a tax?

Mike Huckabee: Well, the criticisms sort of ignore the nuance of being a governor. I balanced the budget every year I was in office for ten and a half years, which, by law, I have to do--to operate within the money we have.

But we had Supreme Court orders that told us we had to spend more money on education. And when we have burning issues, like a crumbling infrastructure of roads and bridges that I've inherited and I take it to the people and get an 80 percent vote for a highway program, I think that shows good management, not lack of fiscal restraint.

So, it is really one of those things that when people look at the record of even though I was in a very overwhelmingly Democrat state, going against those headwinds we still got tax cuts.

We were still able to hold the line on spending. And if you talk to the legislators that actually served with me for a considerable period of time, I think you are going to find that they felt like it was a very conservative management. You have called the Club for Growth, which is a major economic conservative group and one of your biggest critics, the "Club for Greed." Do you think that the people who run the Club for Growth care more about themselves than the country?

Mike Huckabee: I am not going to judge their motives, because I do not know what they are. I just know that their tactics are, frankly, despicable. They take money that we do not know where it comes from, and then they use the anonymous money to take hits out on candidates that, frankly, would be a whole lot better for them than Hillary Clinton.

Why they do that is something they will have to explain. But I think the dishonesty about the issues, and how they distort and misuse them, is very troubling. And they have to answer for that. On health care, you have said that the Democrats are for a government plan, the Republicans put too much faith in private insurance companies, and you trust the individual. What parts of the major Democrats' plans are run by the government?

Mike Huckabee: Well, they still put a focus on the government being involved in the operation and the details. And I think for many people that is a kind of a frightening thought that we would have yet more government intervention. People know that the government's taking Social Security into bankruptcy.

The government cannot keep up with the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, and the reimbursement rates certainly make it harder and harder for doctors to get paid even their costs. The thought that government would add another layer of control I think is very troubling to many people.