Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has returned to Iowa after nearly a month away.
It was a month which, according to recent public opinion polls, saw his support among Iowans grow so that Huckabee has been thrust into perceived front-runner status for Iowa’s Caucuses. It happened with a low-budget Huckabee effort compared to the well-financed campaign of Mitt Romney who had been leading polls of likely Republican Caucus-goers for months.
"Where we don’t have offices and paid staff, we have something even better," Huckabee says. "We’ve got an army of ordinary people who are out there not because somebody’s paying them to love me, we have people out there who are working hard because they believe in what I stand for and they’d like to have a president that didn’t buy his way into the White House but earned it."
Huckabee later told reporters he was "glad" to defend his own record as governor of Arkansas and didn’t intend to focus on "what’s wrong" with his competitors.
"What I’m seeing in this surge of support that I am getting across the country, it’s coming not from Washington-based Beltway Insiders — it’s coming from ordinary people who want a president who speaks for them and not just the folks who are in that Beltway," Huckabee said during a news conference this afternoon in Des Moines.
Huckabee has been criticized by the Club for Growth for raising taxes when he was governor of Arkansas, Huckabee pointed to the record of Ronald Reagan, who raised some taxes when he was California’s governor and when he was president. "Does anybody in the Republican Party call Ronald Reagan a liberal? Does anybody say that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a true conservative? He’s the gold standard of the Republicans’ conservatism now," Huckabee said. "Ronald Reagan also was one who rankled the establishment of the Republican Party when he was the candidate not only in 1976 but in 1980. He did not have the support of the insiders. Neither do I and in ways that may be a good thing."
Huckabee also told reporters his campaign was not behind a series of telephone calls being made into Iowa which tout his candidacy and attack his competitors. "We’ve asked that it stop. It’s not condusive in helping us. I think it’s hurting us and I don’t know if it’s somebody who’s doing it thinking they’re helping us or if it’s somebody who’s doing it in order to hurt us. I honestly don’t know, but it’s not helpful and it’s not part of our campaign," Huckabee said. "We have, again, have publicly repudiated the tactics because they do not represent the kind of campaign I want to be a part of."
A group of retired military officers met privately with Huckabee Monday afternoon and the former Arkansas governor emerged to say, "torture should not be the policy of the United States of America." Huckabee said interrogation should be thorough, but torture violates the "moral code" of Americans and actually jeopardizes the country’s security.
Click on the audio link below to listen to the entire question-and-answer period with reporters which followed that meeting.