Ames, Iowa—On Saturday, Mike Huckabee returned to the site of one of his earliest strong performances in the ’08 presidential race and looked ahead to 2012. The former Arkansas governor was on hand for the Republican “straw vote” here over the weekend not only in his present capacity as a Fox-TV host, but also to lead his own rock band performing at various sites on the Iowa State University campus.
“I really can’t say who did the best—I didn’t hear any of them,” Huckabee told HUMAN EVENTS shortly after the candidates’ speeches were finished, explaining that he had been too busy meeting old friends and playing bass guitar with his ensemble.
Four years ago, Huckabee made headlines nationwide by coming in second in the Iowa Straw Poll. In ’08, he went on to win the Iowa caucuses, which launched him into the top tier of candidates in the nomination battle eventually won by John McCain. In May of this year, with polls showing him the front-runner for 2012, Huckabee announced he would not run.
“You can look at the race now and play the ‘what if?’ game all day,” Chip Saltsman, who was Huckabee’s ’08 national campaign manager, told us. Now chief of staff to Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Saltsman made it clear he urged Huckabee to run in 2012.
“I don’t look back—I’ve moved on,” Huckabee said of his own decision not to run. Although Michele Bachmann certainly was a beneficiary of Huckabee enthusiasts who are also cultural conservatives, both Saltsman and Huckabee himself emphasized that their ’08 team is “split up pretty good in Iowa.” They noted that Huckabee’s top operative in the Hawkeye State, Wes Enos, is now the top Bachmann operative but that another key player in the ’08 Huckabee effort, Eric Wolfson, is now an Iowa leader for Tim Pawlenty (who dropped out of the presidential race Sunday).
Any discussion with Huckabee or Saltsman has to come back to Mitt Romney, the two former governors’ rivalry in ’08 leading to some harsh exchanges between them and their campaigns. Has the relationship with Romney healed with time, we asked.
“Yes, and I have talked to Mitt Romney and consider him my friend,” replied Huckabee, adding that “I’ve made it clear if Mitt is the nominee, I will support him in every way I can. This is about Barack Obama and he has to be defeated.”
When he spoke at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast shortly after his ’08 candidacy ended, Huckabee was asked if he would consider running for the Senate from Arkansas and replied he would no more like to that than “get tattoos all over my arms and join play backup with Amy Winehouse [who recently died].” Does he still feel the same way about a Senate race, we asked?
“Yes—I won’t run for the Senate,” Huckabee replied.
Would he consider a race for another elective office, such as President in 2016 or later.
“Maybe,” he said, “We’ll see what happens.”