Mike Huckabee, a once and potential future GOP presidential candidate, offered a scathing critique of President Obama in an interview with National Journal, saying that the president “self-destructed” during a press conference last week.
Obama held a press conference last Tuesday to defend a tax-cut deal his administration made with Republicans that, most notably, restored unemployment benefits for a year while temporarily extending all Bush-era tax cuts, including those for earners with incomes of more than $250,000. The session’s most memorable moment came when the clearly irritated president ripped his party’s liberal base, which he said was more interested in ideological fights than in passing legislation.
The remarks drew the biggest backlash from liberal activists, but Huckabee, a conservative Baptist minister, piled on during an interview last week with NJ.
"The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct," Huckabee said. "I was just stunned –- I really couldn’t believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was."
Huckabee won the Iowa presidential caucus in 2008 by a 9-point margin but eventually lost the Republican nomination to Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He has been rumored to be interested in another run, and he polls better against Obama than many other potential GOP candidates.
The former Arkansas governor said he hasn't yet decided whether to make the race. His biggest concern is not whether he can beat Obama, Huckabee said; it's the Republican primaries.
"Having gone through the process before and knowing just what it entails, it’s not a decision I’ll make lightly," he 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 is touting a new children's book, Can't Wait Till Christmas. His lucrative career as a writer, speaker, radio host, and Fox News commentator gives him an "an incredible opportunity... to speak on issues that are important to me, [to] 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."
Though he maintains a home in Arkansas and will "always be a razorback," Huckabee is now a resident of one of the nation's top political battlegrounds. He and his wife, Janet, are building a $3 million home in the Florida panhandle. Huckabee said it's an easier commute from there to New York City, where he spends most weekends working for Fox News.
If he decides to run, it won't be until late spring at the earliest, Huckabee said. He criticized the length of presidential campaigns, including the possibility of a revived late-spring straw poll in 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."
Moreover, Huckabee 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" that 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."
He's not worried about his organizational abilities or the possibility of losing out on top political talent by waiting to make a decision. Huckabee feels he has plenty of chits to collect if he makes a move: He said he helped candidates in 127 races during the 2010 midterm 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."