NJ What do you think of the tax-cut agreement that President Obama and congressional Republicans reached earlier this week? Was it a fair compromise?
HUCKABEE I think it's the best anyone can hope for at this point. Obviously, it's a much better deal than letting there be complete limbo about the tax rates. It's good news for those who were wondering what the tax code was actually going to be. I wish it had been longer than two years. Politically, I was shocked it was going to be two not three, because it puts this whole thing in the very center, the bull's-eye of the 2012 presidential election. It doesn't have it resolved. But it does allow people to forecast for the next couple of years, and it'll make a big difference in people making some decisions about expansion and hiring. It means more money in the hands of the private sector and less in the hands of government. So those are all very, very good things.
The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct at the podium yesterday. I was just stunned--I really couldn't believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was, and essentially launched from the podium at some of his own, taking aim and mowing down everybody in D.C. and walking away having not understood that he just lost a lot of people.
NJ Do you think up to that point that Obama been acting responsibly but flew off the handle during the press conference? What did you think of the overall process--is that the type of D.C. you've been hoping to see in terms of working toward compromise, working toward getting things done? Was it a good sign of things to come, or was it the position he was forced to take?
HUCKABEE I don't think he enjoyed it at all--he made that clear--but it was the only deal in town. This is a president that has shown no appetite for compromise with Republicans, zero. During the health care debate, he only had that one public meeting with Republicans, where he kept rolling his eyes. [Rep.] Paul Ryan [R-Wis.] came in with his own plan he wanted to share. He told Ryan, "I'm not interested in hearing you read that."
People were asking him to compromise, and he came out and said: "Elections do have consequences, and I won't." I think he thought he'd been given a blank sheet of paper and told, "Do whatever you want." Elections don't give one unfettered access to changing the entire public sector; even 53 percent of the vote is not a mandate to change 100 percent of the American economy, and I don't think he understood that there were a significantly growing number of Americans who are dissatisfied with what he has attempted and what he's accomplished.
NJ Do you think he understands that now, or does he still have his head in the sand?
HUCKABEE I think to some degree he still has his head in the sand. I was one of the first Republicans after the election to come out and say, "Look, this is a historic moment; he's my president now, and I want him to be successful." But it didn't take long for me to realize that he's not this guy who presented himself as a centrist during the campaign, who wanted to bring people together and work to change the spirit of Washington.
He is a very ideologically left-of-center person who wants to take the country in a very dramatic direction, and I don't think that's what people wanted. And I think that's what we saw in the midterms, which were the most resounding spanking in the midterm elections since at least the 1994 election.
NJ Democrats fared poorly everywhere, but a lot of the Republican gains came in areas where you did well in the primaries in 2008, in the South and Appalachia, in more-conservative populist areas, the part of the country with a lot of blue-collar Reagan Democrats. If you did run for president, would you be one of the strongest candidates again in this area? And if you don't run who do you think would do well with this constituency and assume the Republican mantle this time around?
HUCKABEE 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? I feel better about getting through the general election if I were the nominee. I think I would be one of the best at drawing real contrasts with President Obama. A lot of the polls show I do exceptionally well, far better than any Republican candidate, with my support with women. I got a significant vote from African-Americans when I was governor--I got 28 percent of the African-American vote in my state, and very few Republicans are able to do that. I'm not suggesting I could do that in a national election, especially against Obama, but I would have a much better opportunity to bring in ethnic voters than most Republicans.