Mike Huckabee conducted a media conference call. Aside from his positions which many of us around the blog have commented on, he is technically very good. His thoughts are organized, his delivery is smooth and his voice is well modulated. A brief summary:
Opening Remarks- He stressed his frantic pace and efforts to ramp up his staff and organization. ( A dig at Thompson perhaps?) He touted his IAM endorsement, the first for a Republican in 119 yrs, as evidence he can appeal to voters other GOP candidates have “missed.” He reminded us of his state poll numbers, saying in particular he’s ahead of Thompson in Iowa and that they are a “validation” of his momentum since the Ames straw poll. He’s looking forward to the debate and repeated his stops over the last week -in Mo, Miss, VA, New Orleans and with Lance Armstrong.
I asked about staff and “fair trade” message he used to get IAM endorsement- Says adding staff and numbers depend on how much he fundraises but existing group has been working 7 days a week, 20 hrs a day [ Again, the we’re working hard message.] On free trade he repeated the mantra that free trade has to be fair and cited US disadvantages of litigation, regulation, and high corporate taxes and China’s human rights abuses, currency manipulation and defective goods. He says we want a global economy but we have $232B trade deficit and are vulnerable to currency shenanigans by China. Also used this as reason to pass a Fair Tax which would eliminate corporate tax and be “dramatically different” than what we have now.
Staff and Fundraising? Raised 4x the amount previously online since Ames. Not going after people form other campaigns because they have people they already wanted to hire. Says already have 12 paid in Little Rock and 7-8 unpaid or interns, 3-4 in Iowa and in NH and 2-3 in SC.
Plans for SC? Can’t say John McCain is still a frontrunner. People are just starting to pay attention and we’ve been ramping up for 8 months. When he visited SC it was standing room only and they got 2-4X expected crowds in Iowa and NH.
Senator Craig? Not have to create a problem for the entire GOP. He admitted doing something against the law. Only a problem if the party says “No big deal” and Idaho GOP already calling for him to go. Hope he’ll step down? “I do.”
DC Voting Rights? Joked if they’d vote for me “I’d be for it.” “Doesn’t seem right” they shouldn’t get vote since they pay taxes. Against the GOP’s interest but “doesn’t change whether it is right or wrong.” [Is there a Constitutional issue here? Oh, never mind.]
Why pull out of Dallas straw poll? Not have same national attention as Ames. Can’t do them all and don’t want to pick and choose. Says never really in anyway.
President’s remarks and Obama’s criticism on mortgage meltdown? President did a good job. Two problems: some lenders didn’t disclose risks and some people borrowed beyond their means. We should give an opportunity for parties to renegotiate but people did sign contracts. If Obama says we should be “doing more” we should ask him to define that and we should not expect people who borrowed within their means to subsidize others. [He was clear and effective in this response, perhaps his best answer on the call.]
Concerned about Thompson overshadowing him? No. “I’m thinking Fred may be feeling his late entry may be overshadowed by the attention we’re getting.” He’s entering the day after the NH debate and would have been a good opportunity to introduce himself but he’ll make those decisions. He’ll be a factor. It’s a long season and we’ve been building our structure.
Michigan Move up? Will Be there in September or October. Try not to be critical of states moving up. Joked that at this rate they will have a Halloween primary. “Crazy game” but don’t look to candidates to bring sanity to the process.
Change strategy for the debate? No, try to be comfortable and relax. Don’t read news or blogs that day and listen to the question and answer honestly and candidly.
How can you answer electability concern? Got 60% of vote in Arkansas. Got IAM endorsement and big applause at NEA.[Feeling this is not a good thing huh?] Need to have someone who is different than the Democrats. Can’t win without our base but can’t win with just the base.
Thanked everyone and wished nice weekend.
Take Away: He is very very good at talking. How good he is at fundraising and organizing will determine where he goes in the race. (And if he gets that far, many Republicans will have fundamental disagreements with him on economic issues and will be concerned about previous ethics problems and lack of experience and focus on foreign policy.) No swipes at Rudy or Romney but a few at Thompson who is clearly his target, at least for now.