Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told National Journal today that he's not worried about beating President Obama in the general election. It's the Republican primaries that have him concerned.
"Having gone through the process before and knowing just what it entails, it’s not a decision I’ll make lightly," Huckabee said. "If I did run, I do think I would have very significant strength going into it. The real question for me is do I get through the nomination process."
Huckabee won the Iowa presidential caucus four years ago by a 9-point margin and eventually lost to John McCain for the Republican nomination. He has been rumored to be interested in another run, and polls well against Obama compared to many other potential GOP candidates.
Huckabee, who is touting a new children's book, said that while he is mulling a run, his lucrative current jobs as a Fox News and radio host, writer, and speaker are "a very incredible opportunity for me to speak on issues that are important to me, have a part in the public discussion, on issues of the day." He said that in many ways, his current situation is "a perfect world."
Huckabee has moved to Florida and is building a $3 million home with his wife in the state's panhandle. He maintains a home in Arkansas and will "always be a Razorback," but he spends most weekends in New York for Fox News.
Huckabee said if he decides to run, it won't be until late spring at the earliest, and he criticized the length of presidential campaigns, including the possibility of a revived late-spring straw poll in his new adopted home state of Florida.
"It’s utterly meaningless to have something that early," Huckabee insisted. "It would be a great fundraiser, but it gets a little out of control –- it’s not about electing a president, it’s about using the election."
Huckabee also warned that if Republicans repeat the infighting of 2008, it will weaken the eventual nominee.
"Part of my decision on whether to run hinges on whether I think we can have a legitimate, honest, responsible debate about issues, or whether we will spend all our time bickering about the process," he said. "Is the Republican primary going to be about Obama or is it going to be a demolition derby? If the field runs against Obama... there’s a good chance he’ll be a one-term president. If it’s like it was last time, where everyone’s trying to out-conservative each other, it will be a disaster."
Huckabee is also worried about money. He said there's "no doubt" fundraising was his biggest pitfall in 2008, and he will need to determine whether there will be "a level of financial support that would give me more fuel than last time."
Huckabee said he felt confident in his organizational abilities and was not concerned about losing out on top operatives by deciding late whether to run. He said he was involved in 127 races during the 2010 election, with 85 percent resulting in wins.
But he said he would stay out of the race if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were to run.
"I love Jeb, I think he's brilliant," Huckabee said. "He could certainly raise the money, and I think he'd clear the deck." He also said there are a lot of capable, qualified possible candidates who "aren't the obvious ones."
Huckabee reserved his harshest fire for Obama, in particular criticizing the president's news conference on Tuesday in which he defended his deal with congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits.
"The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct at the podium yesterday," Huckabee said. "I was just stunned –- I really couldn’t believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was."
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