Mike Huckabee, 60, is among the small group of 2016 Republican presidential candidates who have run for the White House before. The former Arkansas governor made a significant impact in the 2008 race, winning the Iowa caucuses before losing the nomination to John McCain. Subsequently he became a Fox News TV host.
Huckabee's distinction now, as in the 2008 campaign, is twofold. He's a Baptist minister with special appeal to conservative Christians. And he brings a working-class sensibility to his economic agenda that diverges from Republicans' traditional closeness to corporate America. He attributes some of his inability to capitalize on his 2008 Iowa win to opposition from Wall Street.
He sat down with me to discuss his 2016 campaign at The Home Plate Diner in Des Moines, Iowa. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
HARWOOD: Tell me what you think was the impact, if any, of the pope's recent visit. Would you like to see him change the position of the Republican Party on the way our market system works?
HUCKABEE: I wish the pope better understood how the market system works, and how it can work for everyone. But look, there's some things about right now, the way the market system is working — it's not working real well for everybody. I was saying that eight years ago. And boy, I was getting savaged for it by the elitists who thought that I was an idiot.
In the (2007) CNBC debate, in fact, in Dearborn, Michigan, we were all asked, "How's the economy doing?" Most everybody was giving the standard Republican boiler-plate language that "It's just doing great." I said, "Well, I guess if you're working in the corner office, things are going swimmingly well. But if you're out there lifting heavy things and you're sweating through your clothes every day, things are not going well in your economy." And I was just pilloried for that by The Wall Street Journal and by others who thought that I was a total ignoramus.
Well, it turned out I was pretty darn ahead of my time. Because within a year, the economy had fallen apart, and the people at the top were feeling what I was watching happen to the people at the bottom already.